In Aldershot by Matthew Wilkie. Dir. Liz Webb. Perf. Ian Conningham, Bhasker Patel, Ritu Arya. BBC Radio 4, 23 Feb. 2015.
BBCiPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b053721f to 25 Mar. 2015
Unemployed Suitboy (Ian Conningham) is finding life difficult. Not only does he experience difficulty trying to find
a job, but he suffers from domestic trouble as his wife Karen (Rhiannon Needs) takes an offer of employment and becomes increasingly
disillusioned with him. Eventually she decides to leave him, taking baby Sam with her.
The only ray of sunshine on Suitboy's horizon is his developing friendship with ex-Gurkha Gurung (Bhasker Patel), who
joins the rapidly expanding Nepalese community in Aldershot with his family. Offering Gurung a temporary place to live, while
Gurung's house is being modernized. Suitboy is introduced to a different world of close families and local cooking. Everything
seems to be going well, until Suitboy encounters two local yobs (Mark Edel-Hunt, Samuel Valentine) hell-bent on making Gurung's
life a misery.
In Aldershot takes a long, hard look at the in-built racism that pervades many English towns. Local citizens object to
what they perceive as the colonization by immigrant communities, whether they be Poles, Romanians or Gurkhas. Some of them
are likely to go to extreme ends to express their displeasure, even to the extent of ruining Gurung's domestic life. Yet
director Liz Webb also suggests that, for all his attempts at friendship, Suitboy is equally racist insofar as he continually
mispronounces Gurung's name. It is not "Gurung" at all, but a Nepalese dialect term. Such mistakes deprive Gurung
of his identity.
While the play ends on a note of qualified optimism, we are still left with the uncomfortable feeling that immigrants
are not welcome in many areas of Britain, and the so-called ideal of multiculturalism will never be implemented. If Nigel
Farage's UKIP (UK Independence Party) manages to win a substantial number of seats at the forthcoming general election, that
ideal will seem even more illusory.