Meet Sudha Bhuchar. She’s a middle-class, middle-aged mother of two mixed heritage millennials. Clambering from the audience with her coat on and backpack in hand, she’s ready to sit down for her nightly conversation.
Bhuchar’s monologue, inspired by discussions she’s had with her sons, ponders on big themes. There’s talk of her confused sense of identity, intergenerational trauma and moving from a childhood in both Tanzania and India to a life of Le Creuset porridge pots in Wimbledon. But with a meandering structure, Bhuchar’s overall focus remains unclear.
Of course, Bhuchar knows this. She freely admits that she’s no Fleabag with wild stories of threesomes, and is prone to veering off topic. Her sons have even willed her to write a play that has “more plot” already. But could she not have listened to their sound advice? As an actor with around 40 years of experience, Bhuchar radiates knowledge, warmth and real likability. It’s a pity her talents aren’t given the fullest material with which to glow.
When Bhuchar’s writing is at its best, there’s much to savour in Evening Conversations. Being squashed together over the pandemic months has meant that her family’s differences are rife. Questions over which age has had it worse bubble to the surface, as Bhuchar approaches the milestone of her 60th birthday. “No one is going to listen to you, Mum,” her sons chime as she laments her years spent cleaning up after them and the horror of Thatcher’s Britain. If Bhuchar hopes to make a point about generational difference, then these kitchen quarrels paint an intricate picture.
In a production directed by Kristine Landon-Smith, there is calm naturalism to Bhuchar’s delivery. Statically glued to a director’s chair she was given during one of her acting jobs, she reads from a script like she’s seeing it for the first time. Unafraid to stumble over lines, she takes gentle pauses to sip from a large glass of water as she shares her meditations with us like we are old friends. A conversation with Bhuchar may be rambling but, by the end, it feels like time well spent.
At Soho theatre, London, until 12 November