Review: Urban Turban

Posted on Nov 29th, 2009 by Shuchi in Reviews, Comedy, English, Evam

Evam's Urban Turban - The Show Evam’s latest titled ‘Urban Turban’ or The Show, is a departure from their usual plays. ‘Tall tales from the top of our heads’, says the tagline – which about sums it up. These are stories narrated in stand-up comedy style, which keep you engaged and entertained for a good hour.

The debut show at Kyra, Bangalore began with a  goofy short act by director Sunil Vishnu, after which Karthik Kumar took over with his ‘toilet woes’. He had a lot to say, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, about the horrific impact of modern public loo design on the fabric of society. Shannon McDonnell followed next, sharing experiences about settling into urban India from a westerner’s point of view. Another short act by Sunil, then back again to Karthik in the finale with the wackiest stories ranging from endangered species to ovens and baking [this mind you has nothing to do with cooking. To know more, you have to watch the show!]

Urban Turban works primarily because of Karthik Kumar. This is just his kind of thing (unlike Algernon in The Importance Of Being Earnest).  To keep an audience spellbound when talking of the intricacies of a crocodile’s jaw movements is no mean feat, but the man can do it.

That said, Karthik’s first act felt slightly raw. There was some mixing up of the lines, and a couple of jokes were repeated/stretched beyond the point of funny. A little pruning is needed over there. The closing act was superb, with a lot of jumping around over myriad topics yet all strung together extremely well.

Shannon has a great voice. As Lady Bracknell in The Importance Of Being Earnest, she was easily the best of the cast. In Urban Turban though, I felt that her portion was off the mood of the rest of the show. We were taking Karthik’s nonsensical chatter with smiles and a pinch of salt, but when the stage went to Shannon we suddenly didn’t know how to react. Her story was too real. Besides, those of us with friends from the US [yeah, I weaved that in, Evam please note :)] who visit India have heard close versions of this story many times before. The cows and the traffic have the same impact on anyone from the West, they’re like clichéd motifs of the country. I wish Shannon had given those parts of her experiences a miss, and focussed only on the unexpected and the absurd.

Sunil Vishnu was good in the little time he showed up. A longer act from him will be most welcome.

This was my first visit to Kyra, so I’m not sure if they’re generally late but it wasn’t nice to be kept waiting for the play to start. The play was delayed far beyond the promised 2.30pm. Was this Evam’s dig at the Indian lax attitude towards time?

A bigger quibble is that the show did not contain all that its media coverage/promos led us to expect. For one, the Facebook page for the event mentions T M Karthik, Navin Balachandran and Rabhinder Kannan but they did not make an appearance on stage.

Evam’s blog suggests that the event is 90 minutes long, but it was surely nearer 60 minutes.

Also, the report on mybangalore says:

The Show at Kyra will stir up issues that we, as urban citizens, face in our daily life….To marry or to not marry? Arranged or love? Change the job or the city or the boss? To tweet or not to tweet? …

Other than a fleeting reference to arranged marriage, the other topics are not brought up at all. I wonder if the show is still a work-in-progress, and today’s performance an incomplete version of the real deal that the folks in Chennai are going to get next month?

But I’ll leave aside the nitpicks since I did have a great time. With excellent food at Kyra, friends for company and some nice laughs during the show, it was an afternoon well-spent.

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Article by Shuchi

Shuchi lives in Bangalore (mostly), when she isn’t traveling out of town for work. She adores theatre and writes about plays she watches whenever she gets a chance.

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9 Comments to “Review: Urban Turban”

  1. […] of the show to be held at Alliance Française, Chennai on 5th/6th Dec is rather different from the one I saw at Kyra, Bangalore. The Hindu’s article confirms […]

    December 5th, 2009 11:24 am

  2. This play was more a stand up comedy style than a play as such. Their sets and costumes were apt for their title. Like Shuchi mentioned Shannon’s act was more like ‘I’ve heard this before’. Overall it was a good show

    December 7th, 2009 1:37 am

  3. Hi Shruthi, Good point about the set and clothes. The minimal/casual look complemented the humongous turban very well. 🙂

    December 8th, 2009 1:50 am

  4. Hi… Googled Evam after their show Urban Turban and came across your blog. Just thought I’d share my views (unasked for, of course!). Anyway, this is what I wrote on their blog after I went to see the performance:

    “”I’d attended your staging of “The Importance of Being Earnest” a couple of months ago at Rangashankara,Bangalore, walked out of it cursing the inept and utterly shoddy handling and production of the play, and of course, vowed never to attend an Evam production again.

    Little did I know that last Friday I would unwittingly attend yet another one at the Alliance Francaise- Urban Turban.
    Never in my theatre- going life have I sat through 2 hours of such inane, un-funny witless drivel (I could come up with more adjectives, only more unprintable). If you had staged this at any half- respectable comedy club on any other world stage, believe me, you’d have been booed off by minute five.

    30 MINUTES of lame jokes about one man’s dribbling, another 30 listening to the most unimaginative account of a foreigner’s Indian adventure ever (India is hot, and Indian food spicy, we nod our heads and cows roam the roads- tell me something else for #@$%’s sake!!), another 30 about some lame male-bonding by a rank amateur, and the last 30 about God-knows-what, because by then, I’d got my Ipod out.

    Unbelievable that you have the gall, as you yourself said, to charge money for this c#$p!

    You all are very smug about your sponsorships, and your fancy graphics, and your Power Point presentations. My advice? Use that money to invest in some good scripts (face it- your actors are no Jay Lenos or Tina Feys, or heck, even Russell Peters), some trained actors, better production design, and yes, some lessons in humility.

    I don’t think this review will be published on this blog, but even if it isn’t, I’d be happy because then I’d know that someone has read it…”””

    Well, I’m not looking for a response from them really-I just wanted to get my frustration at their amateurishness off my chest!

    December 14th, 2009 10:51 pm

  5. Whoa that bad huh? Thanks for writing, I hope it was cathartic for you. 🙂

    I wasn’t too impressed with The Importance Of Being Earnest either. Here’s what I wrote about it:

    Somehow, inspite of all the rough edges, Evam works for me.

    I’ve heard nice things about The Odd Couple, haven’t seen it yet. Maybe that’s the one with a chance to bring Evam in your good books!

    December 15th, 2009 12:55 am

  6. Haha- maybe my dislike for them is now bordering on the creepy and irrational, but no, that’s the end of my Evam adventures!

    December 15th, 2009 10:37 pm

  7. […] Hindu news covered the Chennai staging of Evam’s What Others Say. You have to hand it to Evam for being media-savvy. Which other theatre event gets talked about on […]

    December 21st, 2009 7:36 pm

  8. Hi Shuchi… Thanks for this.. I was planning to take my family to Kyra for this play/stand-up on the 27th of this month as my birthday treat.. : )Thanks to your review and Nivedita’s comments I realized the content doesn’t seem very impressive. Will look for somethin else to do.. Anyways will come back here for more reviews of plays. It’s a nice blog you have here.. Cheers! : )

    April 8th, 2012 2:05 pm

  9. Thanks Vineet. I hear they keep changing the content of Urban Turban, you might just want to check with someone who’s watched a recent performance. The show I watched, I wouldn’t recommend for a special family outing.

    Have a great birthday!

    April 8th, 2012 7:44 pm

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