elephant cast

Yasmin Wilde as Deesh, Sukh Ojla as Vira and Raagni Sharma as Amy. Picture: Ellie Kurttz


Birmingham Rep Door


This is the world premiere of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Elephant. With past acclaim at the REP with her play Khandan, Elephant presents universal moralities within the context of Indian family culture.

With direction from Lucy Morrison, Bhatti’s explosive writing addresses the foundations of her culture head on. There are situations that must be talked about, but because of reputation, tradition and culture, Bhatti reveals that some issues cannot go unnoticed, even if they want to be forgotten.

The play has a mundane setting with a family set up much like any other. We are quickly introduced to Deesh, a mother and her husband Barry. They have two teenage children, Bill and Amy. The play starts as they are setting up their home for a visitor to come.

They are a respectable family and their close community look up to them as an admirable unit. With the arrival of their visitor, there is a sense of unease as they are very much aware that their visitor will not fit up to their public appearance.

We discover that Deesh and Barry’s visitor is none other than Deesh’s younger sister, Vira. The family have not spoken to her for many years and their children have never met her. Vira is however intimately known within the family circle because she has never failed to send cards and gifts throughout the years to Bill and Amy.

It is clear to the audience that when she arrives, there is an extreme awkwardness within their meeting but the reason is not yet clear.

Bhatti does great work in developing the audience’s curiosity by not revealing why Barry and Deesh would rather not have Vira as a visitor. This is because there is a secret and it has been buried for years. It would be simpler for the family to forget about past events.


Ezra Faroque Khan as Barry

The cast grasp Bhatti’s complex story with extreme talent and great maturity. Yasmin Wilde as Deesh gives a marvellous impression playing a classic mother desperately trying to hold her family together, despite knowing their terrible family secrets. Farshid Rokey as Bill and Raagni Sharma as Amy provide a great insight to the complexity of being a modern teenager with parents who are more obsessed about their talents, rather than their own wellbeing.

Barry is played by Ezra Faroque Khan and he portrays the typical leader of the household father. His authoritative sentiment shows relatable traits where Bhatti assesses questions of culture and tradition through the portrayal of his character. Vira is played by Sukh Ojla and gives a brave account of the shunned, but brave sister.

Bhatti reveals the complex layers of knowing the truth, but never letting it be revealed. She gives a clear message that public appearances are ranked much higher than morality. Deesh is very much aware of Barry’s terrible past mistakes in his advances toward Vira in the past and she is given the chance to finally support her at the end of the play.

The play’s themes, while they are mature and complex are extremely relatable across all cultures. Bhatti reveals the undoubted truth to the audience in plain sight. Deesh also knows the truth about Barry’s awful actions towards her younger sister but refuses to face it. Because their children are expected to now see their father in a way that they can never relate to, Bhatti holds a mirror to quite familiar and common family secrets, in which sides are taken and the brutal easiness of keeping silent.

Camilla Clarke’s set is in traverse, which is an interesting allusion to making sure that the family secrets and drama must only be contained within their four walls. Overhead, square black walls are there to frame the stage below. The blocked shapes show Deesh and Barry’s desperate attempt at letting nothing escape.

Bhatti gives a wonderful message of courage and solidarity to survivors. Through the secrets of Vira, this play gives hope to other people in silence. Vira still has intentions for her family to hear her own account of the past, in spite knowing that she will not be believed, and even shunned for it.  

As well as being the nickname for Deesh, writer Bhatti addresses the elephant in the room. Bhatti asks how far people must go in order to be believed, but also to be forgiven. Bhatti also shows how easy it is to blame circumstances rather than personal actions. To 03-03-18

Elizabeth Halpin


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