As theatres go, it’s hard to think of one more tailor-made for a production like Confessions of a Coconut than the Burton Taylor Studio. The cramped, even claustrophobic setting helps a great deal in enforcing the kind of personal and highly intimate atmosphere that this play attempts to convey. Unfortunately, whilst the play certainly attempts to capitalise on the merits of its setting, with one scene even demanding direct audience onstage involvement, Confessions of a Coconut is a largely uninspiring experience.
Confessions of a Coconut entirely owes its existence to Saraniya Tharmarajah, who is both the play’s writer and its sole performer. Throughout the production, Tharmarajah flits between many roles (though mostly focussing on the characters of Geeta and to a lesser extent her mother) and her ability to make each character, no matter how brief their appearance, have distinctive quirks and characteristics is certainly commendable. However, perhaps in an attempt to make each personality seem distinctive, Tharmarajah somewhat overcompensates, and as a result every single character feels overacted and therefore artificial as a result.
Admittedly, the acting isn’t entirely to blame for the weak characterisation: some of the fault lies on the script as well. The narrative is told primarily from the perspective of Geeta, the daughter of an immigrant from
On paper, it seems like a compelling narrative, and I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t some effective moments. One scene in which an action used to illustrate pouring coke into a flower pot from Geeta’s perspective is then replicated by her mother to represent petrol being poured on somebody was an especially effective piece of storytelling that emphasised the disparity between the two characters’ backgrounds. Furthermore, the central metaphor of a coconut is also effectively subtle… until the last two minutes of the play where it’s spelled out to the audience. Not trusting your audience and simply telling them all the points you wish to make is a writing pet peeve of mine that Confessions of a Coconut regrettably does fairly often. Without completely spoiling the experience for anyone who wishes to see the play, there is a particularly egregious moment near the end where the audience are basically told that Geeta’s character arc has now been resolved with almost no build up. As a result, what should be the emotional climax of the play just feels rushed and empty.
Confessions of a Coconut is not a play completely without merit. It’s fundamentally earnest and its more effective moments suggest that Saraniya Tharmarajah has the potential to create an engaging play. However, I ultimately left Confessions of a Coconut not particularly entertained and rather uninspired.