Theatre

Rishta

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Four stars

THE groom is positively dashing in his kilt, the bride is radiant in her embroidered shalwar kameez – the music has melded the skirl of the bagpipes with a sturdy Asian backbeat and, alongside the usual pies and slices of quiche, are portions of vegetable pakora. It all suggests a wedding between two different cultures and it is – but with some very clever, thought-provoking twists. In Rishta, the marriage between Niyal and Zahra is basically about joining together traditional Muslim values and the 21st century Western attitudes that surround the younger generation of two Pakistani families living in Glasgow.

The complex issues surrounding this betrothal resemble a cross between a minefield and a quicksand: agree to an arranged marriage, and you risk feeling that your future, your choices, are sinking away under parental pressure – refuse to comply and the ties that bind you to close kin could well blow up, destroyed for ever. This conflict surfaces when Niyal (Taqi Nazeer, who also wrote Rishta) and Zahra (Mandy Bhari) are brought together by match-making parents who reckon their own arranged marriages were a success. This might wash with Niyal and Zahra if they hadn’t already discovered what it felt like to fall in love, albeit with ‘unsuitable’ people. Moreover Zagra’s best friend, Bally (Paul Chaal), is out and proud, an advocate for following your heart even when it alienates your horrified family.

The horns of the couple’s dilemma are soon branching out like bristling antlers. It’s the stuff of torment and turbulent drama – what does Nazeer do? He makes Rishta, his first ever play, into a sparky, genuinely funny comedy that tackles difficult territory – embracing religion, race, family loyalty and sexuality – with an impressive honesty and a welcome lightness of touch that the cast and director Maryam Hamidi don’t just play for laughs, but for real.