Khandan – reviews of Royal Court's 'witty' family drama

Jun 19, 2014

New play 'brilliantly' exposes tensions between two generations of a Punjabi-British family

Robert Day
What you need to know

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's play Khandan has transferred to the Royal Court Theatre, London from the Birmingham Rep's Studio. Kaur Bhatti is known for her controversial play Dishonour about a rape in the Sikh community. 

Khandan, which means family, tells the story of widowed Punjabi matriarch Jeeto, who dreams of leaving England and retiring in her native land. Her plans are threatened by her ambitious son, Pal, who wants to sell the family shop and invest in the growing market for care homes for elderly Asians. Runs until 28 June.

What the critics like

"The play is a shrewdly observed tragicomedy about the tensions between two generations," says Paul Taylor in The Independent. It has a humane breadth of sympathy and a powerfully ambivalent attitude towards the liabilities of legacy and the sustaining strength of clans.

A less provocative work than Dishonour, Khandan is "a well-rounded study" that brilliantly exposes the contradictions behind the facade of the traditional family, says Aleks Sierz on the Arts Desk. This wonderful account of a family seems to raise a mirror to the nation and Bhatti's gift to the audience is her vivid characters. 

"Bhatti writes with warmth, wit and acute understanding of her characters' predicaments," says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. This is a wise and sympathetic play about issues that can tear households apart and what "home" means.

What they don't like

Unlike Bhatti's earlier work, Khandan is unlikely to provoke controversy and it's first half is "involving, if in a somewhat soap opera-esque way", says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. But the play's sudden swerve towards gravitas in the second half doesn't feel fully earned. 

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