Review: ‘A Brimful of Asha’ hilariously explores perspective and the mother-son dynamic

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Review: ‘A Brimful of Asha’ hilariously explores perspective and the mother-son dynamic

A Brimful of Asha
Words by Josh Fergeus


“They’re going to think I’m an idiot,” cries Ravi Jain. “You are,” replies his mother, Asha, quick as a whip. This exchange exemplifies the banter that’s alternately amusing, engaging and sweet, and explores the relationship between the Indian-Canadian pair.

A Brimful of Asha is named not only for comedian Ravi’s mother – the name means hope in Hindi – but is taken from the song by British alternative rock outfit Cornershop. The song, interspersed with Bollywood tunes, plays as the audience shuffles in. Not long after we enter the theatre are we introduced to Asha one by one and offered what turns out to be a delicious samosa.

It’s a great atmosphere from the outset, evoking a large family gathering or dinner party, as platters heaving with samosas are passed back and forth overhead through the audience.

The play focuses on a recount of true events through the differing perspectives of Asha and Ravi. Asha isn’t a performer, but she knows what she thinks, and this is clearly a woman who can do anything she sets her mind to.

A few years ago, Ravi announced to his mother that he was making a show about her attempts to micro-manage his romantic life and he was going to tell the world what a bad mother she was. The story goes that she replied, “Well, you know if I was on stage everyone would sympathise with me and see what an idiot son I have”. Having met the woman, I believe it. She is a force of nature.

While it’s not the most polished production in the world, it doesn’t need to be. It’s an opportunity to sit with two people and hear about parts of their shared history, recounted with love, humour and generosity. The good-natured ribbing between the two is infectious, prompting everything from giggles to belly laughs throughout the 90-minute performance. Asha is magnificent and a perfect foil for Ravi’s storytelling.

A Brimful of Asha is showing as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival until Sunday October 13 at The Coopers Malthouse, Beckett Theatre.