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Brave reflections on Thatcher's legacy

Approaching Empty, Belgrade B2, to March 23

Ishy Din, who was once a taxi driver in Middlesborough, set this, his second play, in a taxi office somewhere in the north-east.

It’s 2013, Margaret Thatcher has just died, and the taxi company is ailing – is it a metaphor for the region which suffered so badly from the deindustrialisation of the 1980s?

Mansha (Kammy Darweish), one of the two old friends who run Kings Cars, refers to Thatcher as “bitch” leaving us in no doubt what he thinks of the former PM.

But he’s got more pressing problems. Although he manages the firm, Raf (Nicholas Khan) owns it and wants to sell. Mansha decides to buy, but he needs partners to scrape together the asking price, £75,000 in cash. In come young and ambitious son-in-law Sully (Nicholas Prasad), and feisty ex-con Sameena (Rina Fatania), both of whom have recently come into money.

Investing in the firm seems like a dream come true – a big chance for all of them to turn their lives around. But you know it’s all going to end badly for them, just as it ended badly for the industries that once gave them, and others like them, a good living.

Along the way the two old friends share some poignant reflections on their lives as immigrants who came to work and create better lives for themselves but are now stranded and struggling.

And in a highly dramatic twist near the end, a late-introduced character Tany (Maanuv Thiara) delivers a clear if depressing lesson: In this new world you can trust no-one, and honourable if naïve men like Mansha, are out of their depth.

The climax verges on the over-wrought and the tinny TV in the corner of the stage telling us of Thatcher’s death and funeral is on throughout the play, the sound just loud enough to be slightly irritating.

But despite that, the play is a brave and intriguing reflection on the Thatcher legacy. Not everyone will agree with Ishy Din’s take on it. But it’s also a reflection of people’s real experiences, and there’s no arguing with that.

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