Review: Bombay Black (Factory Theatre)

Photo of Kawa Ada, Howard J Davis, and Anusree Roy by Joseph Michael

On stage at the Factory Theatre, Bombay Black makes its return to Toronto

I’m feeling divided when it comes to Bombay Black, on stage at the Factory Theatre. On one hand, there is so much going on with the entire performance that is visually stunning — the dialogue, the movement, the lighting and music. It’s the most creative use of a bare stage that I’ve seen in a while. On the other hand, I feel disconnected from it. It’s not gelling with me in a way that I want to shout it to the rafters which is what great theatre does for me. So I’m torn.

The premise begins simply enough but then blooms and blossoms to reveal so much more. It starts with a blind man paying an exotic dancer to dance for him. It  ends in a decade-old revelation and a deeper but certainly fractured look at how the search for revenge can tear at the mind. It’s somewhere in between that I became lost.

Bombay Black is an intricately designed and woven piece of theatre that blends movement, poetry, folklore, and a rather complex story line. As the play begins, the stage is bare save for two silver bowls flanking centre stage, illuminated by a spotlight. The story flows in and out of these lights. Jennifer Lennon has created a visual masterpiece in lighting alone. Adding to that is the wonderfully haunting and mesmeric music used to score the story that I cannot get enough of.

The performances are also rather stunning. Anusree Roy’s sharp wit and lashing tongue is great as Padma injecting the character with a delightful level of humorous sarcasm, just as Kawa Ada performance as Apsara is curious and intriguing. His dance performance is also a delight to watch. There’s a particularly interesting choice in play here as Ada is male and the character of Apsara is female. His portrayal of Apsara is certainly delicate and feminine with an underlying shade of strength colouring the role. His movements blend masculine and feminine elements like a chameleon.

But I guess it’s the story and the way it flowed amorphously in limbo between folklore and reality that left me lost in the haze. My theatre companion Shazan felt similarly, finding himself also disconnected by the midway point before the beat shifts and the characters bring the story to a conclusion.

Bombay Black is one of those diamond in the rough kind of pieces (and this diamond has a truly distinctive dark past) and though I feel I’ve seen glimpses of the diamond, I haven’t unearthed it. I find that it is worth seeing, as there is something quite remarkable in there. I may need to see it again for that diamond to be revealed, but maybe you’ll find it on the first go.


  • Bombay Black  is playing at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St) until December 6, 2015.
  • Performances run Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm with Sunday matinees at 2 pm.
  • Tickets are $35, $30 for seniors, and $25 for students and arts workers and can be purchased online.
  • Audience advisory: this production uses theatrical haze and coarse language

Photo of Kawa Ada, Howard J Davis, and Anusree Roy by Joseph Michael

One thought on “Review: Bombay Black (Factory Theatre)”

  1. I agree with your review wholeheartedly. I so wanted to enjoy this show as I had seen these actors on stage previously and their performances were fantastic; however, overall I just felt it was confusing and ‘awkward’ to watch. The use of profanity in this piece just felt very forced and I think it just took away from the performance. I appreciate what they tried to do, and I agree that the visuals and the use of the stage were great, but I was underwhelmed. There were a few instances where the actors stumbled over their lines and it takes courage and professionalism to move forward despite that, so congrats to them. I heard similar sentiments from the audience around me, and we all left quickly after a polite round of applause and no encore.

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