The Buddha of Suburbia at RSC review - 'riotous fun from beginning to end'

Packed with energy, bawdy humour and glorious music, this colourful adaption of Hanif Kureishi’s novel is a riot of fun from beginning to end.

The play opens with disco dancing, moves swiftly onto yoga in Y fronts and through to multiple passionate sex scenes (with fruit for intimate body parts and party poppers for the 'climax'). This is not a play that will gently entertain but hits you more like a smack in the face - in a good way.

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Dee Ahluwalia plays a very likeable Karim trying to make his way in the world in the late 1970s - on the cusp of a winter of discontent, high inflation, food shortages, strikes and racist violence.

He hears his dad Haroon talk of his native India, where servants would have done everything for him. He arrived here 'to be educated like Ghandi'. Now it's his downtrodden English wife Margaret who serves him. They are making a life in south London and neither are happy.

His wishes for Karim to be a doctor were never going to be realised - in the teenage boy's mind, his ambitions lie in becoming an actor while frolicking with schoolboy Charlie or best friend Jamila.

But times change as 'Jammy' is forced into an arranged marrage by her parents to the hapless but loving Changez who arrives from India with a thirst for Arthur Conan Doyle books. The moment the kind hearted, most gentle man is attacked in the street by the National Front is hard to watch.

On his drama journey, Karim is first cast as Mogwli in a production of The Jungle Book, all loin cloth and blacked up skin. It doesn't go down well but he is soon introduced to a 'star' director - the pretentious and also hilarious Matthew Pyke (Ewan Wardrop) who is swooned over by every actor that walks in his path and lures the young Karim into a grubby foursome.

Emma Rice, adapting the novel for the stage alongside Kureishi himself, has crammed the novel into a two hour and 30 minute performance and it's easy to see the limitations. The characters are a little one dimensional and we don’t really delve into the woes of Margaret who loses her husband Haroon to the sexier temptress Eva or the troubles that led to the death of Karim's boyfriend Charlie. But what it does deliver is an absolute abundance of physical humour, clever choregraphy and lots of fun.

The Buddha of Suburbia at The Swan Theatre at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon until June 1.

Run time is two hours and 30 minutes with a 20 minute interval.