Bye Bye Bombay
nytheatre.com review by Megin Jimenez
August 10, 2008
In her solo production Bye Bye Bombay, Cara Yeates tells the story of a young Indian-Canadian woman who flees to India in search of her mother's Bollywood past, as well as a piece of her own identity. In Bombay, she quickly becomes a Bollywood star in her own right, meeting vivid characters from all strata of society along the way. Yeates narrates the journey like a dark fairy tale or a big adventure, using music, dance, animation, and puppets. Most ingenious is the use of video—projected recordings help to fill in the bustle and color of India, and YouTube videos of the young heroine's travel journal serve as an arresting commentary. The multimedia approach serves the piece well, and Yeates comfortably navigates transitions between these various elements.
The piece works best as travelogue. The sneak peak at the inner workings of Bollywood productions is fascinating and funny, and much too short. It is the attempt to tie all the pieces together that detracts from the experience in the end. The narrative framework around the young girl's relationship with her mother seems like an easy (and unnecessary) way to overlay emotional content. While Yeates expertly transforms into characters ranging from a jaded Russian dance master to a sleazy film producer, the protagonist remains opaque. It is hard to see why the insistently awkward teenager gets a break into sudden stardom—some disclosure of excitement, conceit, or love of drama would have made for a more convincing metamorphosis.
By contrasting old and new storytelling techniques, and considering for a moment the role of art and artifice in modern India, itself a land of mind-boggling contrasts, the production asks plenty of heartfelt questions without the often-used family conflict. Bye Bye Bombay is successful as a journey; through an intense multi-sensory experience, Yeates brings us with her halfway around the world and back.