Approaching Empty @ Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Approaching Empty is sensationally sharp, with Ishy Din’s writing and Pooja Ghai’s direction proving realistic, witty and hilarious

Review by Dominic Corr | 13 Mar 2019

Real life is ugly, and friendship (as much as we refuse to accept it) has a price. In Approaching Empty's case, it’s just good business for Raf as he tries to sell his taxi firm, but life-long friend Mansha is determined to buy it and finally control his fate. So will Mansha’s graft, hard work and honourable attitude pay off, or will elitist business manner claim (unfair) victory once again?

Ishy Din’s script is quick in its jabs, combining notes of 80’s BBC sitcoms with the toxicity of The Thick of It. If you’ve ever known or been related to a taxi driver, then you know that Rosa Maggiora's set design has captured the setting perfectly. In fact, it’s almost too nice. The clattered design still feels comfortable enough for these characters’ second home, which is perfect for Kammy Darweish’s heartspoken Mansha to while away the hours while booking cabs for clients. 

As a beacon of humour, attitude and truth, Rina Fatania stands as a minor matriarchal figure. Too often the working-class voice we hear is male, but Din has enabled Fatania's character Sameena to punch out with a ferocity of the female perspective but also a Pakistani one at that. Her interactions with Darweish are a particular highlight, two powerhouse performances complimenting each other exquisitely.

Stitched into the sound design are recent political scandals, some forgotten. Echoing the thoughts of some working-class attitudes, they coincide with the story's narrative. Polar opposite opinions on Thatcher’s passing highlight the drive of Raf’s (Nicholas Khan) push for ‘Be the Boss’ and that workers are expendable.

Maanuv Thiara's antagonist is intimidating, on the cusp of unhinged forcing us to hold our breath. We just needed a deeper interaction – his relationships with characters are interesting, the short snippets with Fatania especially aching for further development.

Approaching Empty speaks not just for the working-class man but for Pakistani communities and tackles a much larger issue for women. It's an eye-opening natural production, and a compelling, satisfying piece which hopefully has longevity.

Approaching Empty @ Assembly Roxy, run ended