Last Dance at Dum Dum

Previewed 8 July 1999, Opened 14 July 1999, Closed 28 August 1999 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London

The World Premiere of Ayub Khan-Din's play Last Dance at Dum Dum in London for a strictly limited season

Set in the peeling grandeur of the colonial house Dum Dum, people and politics melt together under the twinkling lights of a garden dance in Calcutta. Outside the jasmine covered walls, the dark reality of hatred and bigotry is creeping closer and closer.

The cast features Paul Bazely as 'Eliot', Sheila Burrell 'Violet', Avril Elgar 'Daphne', Diana Fairfax 'Lydia', Madhur Jaffrey 'Muriel', Rashid Karapiet 'Mr Jones', Nicholas le Prevost 'Bertie' and Madhav Sharma 'Mr Chakravatty'. Directed by Stuart Burge, with designs by Tim Hatley and lighting by Mark Henderson. Last Dance at Dum Dum follows the huge success of Ayub Khan-Din's East is East set in Salford.

"For Ayub Khan-Din to follow up his first play, East Is East - a big hit on stage and now on film - with something as striking seemed a tougher proposition than doing the Indian rope trick. But Last Dance At Dum Dum, is no illusion: Khan-Din has pulled it off, aided and abetted by a breathtakingly good cast in which Madhur Jaffrey, known for her cookery writing as well as films such as Heat and Dust, delivers one of the performances of the year so far. Left floundering in the wake of history, a group of impoverished Anglo-Indians struggle to maintain a colonial lifestyle in the Calcutta of 1985. Muriel (Ms Jaffrey) is dying of a brain tumour and prone to outbursts during which everybody in the vicinity is likely to get tongue-lashed within an inch of their lives. Her husband, played by the ever-impressive Nicholas Le Provost, is in despair, terrified of losing her and their home as pressures of the new India crowd in from all sides. A story of loyalty and love and conflicting cultures, Stuart Burge's consummate production has to be a contender when the time comes for handing out gongs. If I have a vote, save Last Dance for me." The News of the World

"Dum Dum is the suburb of Calcutta where they first manufactured the bullet that explodes on impact. But however loveable the doddery old characters in Ayub Khan-Din's disappointing follow-up to his West End hit East Is East, the dramatic consequence of his new play is little more than that of small buckshot. Seeking to write about Anglo-Indians languishing in the illusion of Empire, he is caught between doting characterisation and serious political analysis... The cracks in Stuart Burge's timid direction are as wide as those in the structure of designer Tim Hatley's collapsing garden wall. The atmosphere of provincial rep therefore descends over the show, with the actors faltering over lines, fluffing cues and playing against the recording of a riot which sounds more like the feeble crackle on the old folks' gramophone. Burge's production is also badly cast and Madhur Jaffrey, for all her many virtues, cannot carry the impotent rage which Khan-Din has sought to place at the centre of his story. Nicholas Le Provost as her shuffling husband does his best to help her out, but his considerable talents are wasted on such a sketchy part. Sheila Burrell, as one pistol-and-sabre-wielding old biddy, adds flashes of colour alongside Paul Bazely's beanpole drag queen. But both are fighting a losing battle in a play on which the sun goes down as surely as it did on the Raj itself." The London Evening Standard

"To the mixed-race oldsters huddled in the crumbling mansion they call Dum Dum, the Indians outside are 'bloody natives', corrupt and incompetent, and visitors from Blighty are 'bloody English', likely to regard them as 'half-bred bastards'. Scatty Violet (Sheila Burrell) obsessively collects imperial memorabilia. Genteel Mr Jones (Rashid Karapiet) wears sandals below the dinner jacket that show he is still mourning his dead wife. Muriel (Madhur Jaffrey) has a tumour in the brain almost as big as the chip on her shoulder, and raves venomously at anybody different from herself. Add her devoted, slightly blimpish husband Bertie (Nicholas Le Prevost), flummoxed Daphne (Avril Edgar), and a houseboy (Paul Bazely) whose already considerable identity problems aren't helped by his fondness for dressing in drag and doing Monroe imitations; and you have a collection of eccentrics who, with the intermittent exception of Jaffrey's splendidly fierce Muriel, remain likeably two-dimensional. The problem Khan-Din faces is finding a plot to contain his entertaining observation. It is one he never fully solves... I felt that Khan-Din had lost control of the play. Present him with the ethnic collisions of Salford, and he does not falter. Give him the sub-continent, as Last Dance does, and he forgivably flounders." The Times

Last Dance at Dum Dum in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 8 July 1999, opened on 14 July 1999 and closed on 28 August 1999