Alchemy Review: Strictly Balti

Saikat Ahamed shares his experience of what it means to be British-Asian

Posted: 23.05.16

Born in the UK to parents hailing from Bangladesh, makes actor and writer Saikat Ahamed, a British-Asian, but what does that mean? Being British-Pakistani, even I stumbled through childhood and my teens, with a clouded sense of belonging at times – something that much of the 3,078,374 plus South Asian population in the country can relate to. Defining what being British-Asian is a subjective and contentious matter, especially in today’s times, which is what makes Saikat’s one-man play Strictly Balti so enlightening and refreshing, performed at Southbank’s Alchemy 2016.

In an endearingly intimate portrayal, amidst a modestly simple set, with props consisting of a few scattered symbolic boxes, representing the concept of not being confined to a box or category, Saikat provides a personal insight into his journey of being British-Asian. As he weaves his way through his life, he does a fine job to engage the audience with his visual story-telling, where flashbacks of his childhood are brought to life, magically with just his eloquent descriptions and delightful memoirs. His ability to create poignancy through humour was special, such as his disappointment at getting a Bangladeshi poetry book for Christmas from his dad, yet the poem, Taal Gachh meaning Palm Tree, passed onto him acts as a haunting theme throughout his life, resonating with him and helping him find his identity when he was lost, clutching onto the metaphorical palm leaves and finding the true version of himself. He reveals his confused dual identity growing up as Sid in school, and Saikat at home, obediently living up to his parent’s expectations of being Bangladeshi and their misconception of being British, illustrated hilariously through his reminiscent painstaking ballroom dancing days, when his parents made him learn in their attempt at making him acceptably British.

Saikat’s honest and charming account of being British-Asian, became a touching, yet amusing visage for the audience, tales of which many could relate to – whether British-Asian or not, for everyone at some point must have felt like they didn’t quite belong. Moments like his parents’ disappointment at his decision not to follow their footsteps and become a doctor, and to instead become an actor, are sentiments and experiences that most can relate to. It all goes back to the boxes – the underlying message that it doesn’t matter if you don’t fit into a box or a category or group, but to embrace who you are.

Find out more about Saikat Ahamed
Follow Saikat Ahamed on Twitter
Find out more about Southbank’s Alchemy 2016 which runs until 30th May 2016

Fariha Sabir

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