Time to get your glad rags on for Sunita's big 40th surprise party. It's a shindig packed with food, love, tears, secrets and revelations that promise to pop like the corks of the endless bottles of prosecco gulped on set.
The first part of the show felt slow as if just to set the scene - Sunita (Bhawna Bhawsar) returns home early from work on her birthday to an empty house. She calls her estranged dad, leaves a voicemail and runs upstairs to be alone in her room before the others arrive.

In comes mum Tejpal (Divya Seth Shah) who is about to proudly celebrate her daughter's big day and coincide celebrations with the completion of her brand-new kitchen. It took a whole year, but she's so chuffed with it.
And then in walks her beloved son Nav (Devesh Kishore) and his bubbly, energetic, allergy-ridden daughter-in-law Harleen (Rameet Rauli) who provided most of the comic entertainment from the moment she stepped onto the stage.
Her Punjabi was so awful and ropey and hilarious at the same time - all the feminine parts of sentences changed to masculine ones - leaving her audience in stitches every time she attempted to say something in her mother tongue.
With everyone forgetting to pick up the eggless birthday cake despite no one being a vegetarian, Tejpal enlists the help of builder Maurice (Keiron Crook) to collect one to save the day - after all, no Indian family can have a birthday do without a cake.

And no sooner do we meet him and the show cuts to a break, getting us ready for the rollercoaster ride ahead. And it's certainly that.

Just like a curry gently simmering to perfection on a hob, slowly slowly the Johal family's secrets start bubbling and unravelling. One by one - it's like a Christmas edition of Eastenders. Each person harbouring either emotional turmoil and trauma or salacious secrets.

The writing was on the wall when Maurice turned up - could it be though that he just became friendly with the family after taking a year to fit the kitchen? Of course not, as we find out. Maurice and his kitchen have given Tejpal a new lease of life, in more ways than one.
And that's what makes this play so special, it's not just about grumpy Sunita and her big day, it is, but it also isn't, because it's about all of them, what they each bring to the family individually and their dynamic as a unit.

This is also a tale of empowerment - inspiring Indian women to reclaim their lives and tackle the traditional battles of sexism, ageism, racism and conformity. And to hell with what the community thinks, it's time to start living.
Harleen was the woman who stole this show. You're just left wanting more of her funny fun.
It felt like all the jokes and banter were saved for the second half, they came thick and fast and clearly resonated with the audience at Watford's Palace Theatre.

Happy Birthday Sunita is also a Hindi song from the 1967 movie, Farz. So, it was obviously very fitting to have that play out at the end with the audience laughing and singing along.

Written by Hollyoaks' star Harvey Virdi, this version of Happy Birthday Sunita has been revived from the hugely popular 2007 play from Rifco Theatre Company. It's on tour at various locations until July 5. If you're in need of some fun, frolics and nostalgia then grab yourself a ticket and don't forget the prosecco.


Review: Sunita Jaswal