In December 2002, Pooja performed in a two hander play called 'Untouchable' by Simon Burt at the Bush Theatre for a few weeks. She
had to learn the
Wakefield accent for the role.
About the Play
Louise and Manni are eighteen, bestest friends since forever. They're going to live up town, go clubbing and get off with boys. There's only one bed but they're sure they can work round that. They're
untouchable. nothing is ever going to come between them. Nothing.... except for drink, sex and sleepy wandering hands under the duvet...
" Tonight we keep going 'til we watch the sun rise over Argos Superstore..."
Burt sets up a strong contrast between the two girls. Lou is streetwise, sexually experienced and has no greater aim in life than to "do Wakey". Manni is an Asian virgin, pursued by the unseen Mehir; initially, she
is determined to study psychology at university. Friends for nine years, the two are at first filled with the heady joys of independence and of weekend Wakefield piss-ups. Gradually, however, Manni falls apart,
coming under the influence both of the vodka bottle and the hedonistic Lou. When they swap dresses for a night out, you realise that each is disastrously taking on the characteristics of the other.
Pooja played the part of Manni. The role of Louise was played by Samantha Robinson.
Extracts from some reviews
The British Theatre Guide - Review by Philip Fisher
"Simon Burt has introduced himself as a very promising young writer with a sense of humour who can write good dialogue and get under the skin of real young people. This should mark him out for a successful
career as a playwright. He is excellently supported by director, Natasha Betteridge and two excellent young actresses, Samantha Robinson fresh out of drama school and Pooja Shah who has already made
her mark in Bend it Like Beckham and does not appear to have needed drama school to become a very good actress."
The Times - Review by Benedict Nightingale
Burt presumably wants to make the unexceptionable point that we take our psyches, life-luggage and unacknowledged problems with us wherever we go. If he succeeds, itís thanks mainly to the
exceptional skills of his two young actresses, Samantha Robinson and Pooja Shah.
Independent - Review by Paul Taylor
On their inaugural session, Lou raises a bottle of vodka to this vista of unqualified liberty: "Tonight, it's just me and thee an' we keep going 'til we watch the sun rise over Argos superstore."
The demise of that dream is charted in a series of groggy post-clubbing scenes that are beautifully handled, in all their rueful, yet resilient comedy and sad, floundering squalor, by Natasha Betteridge's warm,
sympathetic production.... It's a tribute to the psychological inwardness of the play that you can scarcely believe it was written by a man.
The Guardian - review by Michael Billington
The main plus point of seeing Natasha Betteridge's production at the Bush is that you eavesdrop on two gifted young performers. Samantha Robinson's Lou moves with conviction from ebullient perkiness to
sad awareness of her own destructiveness, and of the fact that there is more to life than even Wakefield has to offer. Pooja Shah's Manni goes biliously to the dogs as she swigs from the vodka bottle with
The real shock, however, is to find a man writing so plausibly about loving female clubbers rather than effing-and-blinding guys.
The sparky, selfconfident Lou and the discontented, introverted Manni are respectively acted by Samantha Robinson and Pooja Shah with impressive naturalness
What's On - review by Aleks Sierz
There is something quietly inspiring about Burt's view of fragility and excess. Sympathetically directed by Natasha Betteridge, and with two knockout performances by Samantha Robinson as Lou and Pooja
Shah as Manni, this is one of sweetest Bush plays since Jonathan Harvey's 'Beautiful Thing', Its mix of tenderness and brashness is a fitting climax to the venue's superb Naked Talent season
Timeout - review by Mark Espiner
Possibly the most surprising thing about Simon Burt's debut is that a 28 year old man should choose to get into minds of 18 year old girls. The ties of friendship being cut in rites of passage usually makes for a
good drama, and Robinson and Shah give spirited life to this ladette world, illuminating their characters' journeys.
Evening Standard - review by Nicholas de Jongh
Lou, whose tough sparkiness and exuberance gives way to doleful boredom, and the discontented, introverted Manni are respectively acted by Samantha Robinson and Pooja Shah with impressive
naturalness and conviction.
Theatre Record - review by Ian Herbert
A couple of this issueís new plays feature sharp young Asian women, with Pooja Shah turning in a very assured performance in Simon Burtís Untouchable and Nathalie Armin just as good in
Crazyblackmuthaf***iníself. ... Untouchable is on the face of it a small play, about even smaller lives. Its two teenage girls are terrifyingly devoid of both language and thought, like so many youngsters seen on our
stages these days. Drink, dancing and dresses are their only interests, apart from getting laid. Itís only afterwards that I can admire Simon Burtís remarkable first play for more than its capture of the ripe argot but
sadly vacant minds of these two members of the opposite sex. More subtly, more tangentially, it tells us a vast amount about being young, and the choices it involves for members of two very different
communities, the poor white and the aspirant Asian. Lou (equally promising Samantha Robinson, fresh out of Rose Bruford) arrives as an archetypal slag, mouth as wide open as her legs, while Pooja
Shahís Manni canít throw off her family values of restraint, virginity, dedicated study. Each learns from the other in the playís short, very sharp tale of their empty life together: Lou shows Manni how to let go,
Manni teaches Lou how to hold back. Keep an eye on Simon Burt.
About the author: Simon Burt
SIMON BURT was born in 1975 and studied drama at Loughborough University from 1994-97. He then attended writing classes at the Royal Court Young Writers programme from 1999-2000. he was
nominated by The Bush Theatre for a place on the 2001 Performing Arts Lab Writing For Younger Audiences Workshop. UNTOUCHABLE was his first produced play.