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Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Fenwick’

I have to confess I knew next to nothing about the assassination of Gandhi, and not much more about post-war Indian history. What I knew about the partition I learnt from another play, Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line. When I was at school history studies focused on Europe and ended in 1939! So if nothing else, I learnt a lot from this play, and the excellent programme.

Indian playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar chooses to tell the story through the eyes of the assassin, Nathuram Godse, interweaving his early life with key events in Gandhi’s life, plus the politics of colonialism, race and religion. He narrates his story, talking directly to the audience with an irreverence, and with contemporary references. This is audacious, but it works.

None of the interested parties come out of that period of history well, the British too focused on a quick fix and the regional players struggling to compromise. Any solution was going to upset someone and it was inevitable that implementation would be fraught and long. The revelation for me was that the love for Gandhi, the ‘father of the country’ wasn’t universal and it was the detractors who felt he was betraying the Hindu cause that dealt the fatal blow.

Indhu Rubasingham’s production has an organic flow, using the often problematic Olivier stage to great effect, with an impressionistic design by Rajha Shakiry, whose focal point is a giant partly woven cloth. Siddhartha Khosla’s music and Oliver Fenwick’s lighting add atmosphere. It’s a great ensemble of British Asian actors, with Paul Bazely embodying Gandhi and Shubham Saraf a defiant Godse, and a cheeky narrator. Marc Elliott was particularly good as Nehru, independent India’s first leader.

Good to see the NT’s main stage hosting some non-European history for a change, and on an epic scale like this.

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The Kiln Theatre have revived their production of this play after only five years, giving me an opportunity to catch what I missed last time. A four character play entirely set in a ‘prison’ cell may not seem to have that much dramatic potential, but it turns out to be a very clever and gripping political thriller.

American banker Nick has been kidnapped by a terrorist group in Pakistan, not a premiere league one like the Taliban, but one that gets the wrong man; their target was his boss. Realising he doesn’t have the value they have placed on him, he does a deal whereby he makes them money by doing what he does best, trading futures and shorting. One of his captors Bashir, an idealistic British Pakistani, becomes his right-hand man in pursuit of money. The Imam in charge welcomes the money they make ‘for the people’. In the end, though, greed proves not to be the exclusive province of bankers and the terrorist group becomes fatally divided.

It’s a clever and plausible premise, and it unravels in a series of short and sharp scenes which increasingly grab you and add up to a riveting ride. Lizzie Clachan’s designs, Oliver Fenwick’s lighting and Alexander Caplen’s sound combine to create the tension in Indhu Rubasingham’s excellent production. Scott Karim (the only one who wasn’t in the premiere production here) is brilliantly terrifying as Bashir, later absorbing knowledge to take action in support of his values. Daniel Lapaine is excellent as the incarcerated American, on stage virtually the whole time, indulging his passion for making money whilst attempting to save his life. Tony Jaywardena conveys gentle authority as imam Saleem, with a more steely character just below the surface. I really liked Sid Sagar’s performance as the much put upon Dar, a punchbag for both Bashir and Imam Seleem.

I wasn’t keen on Ayad Akhtar’s only other UK produced play, Disgraced at the Bush in 2013, which I thought was contrived, but this is is great drama, revealing the similarities between the seemingly disparate worlds of high finance, politics and terrorism.

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This highly original play by American Antoinette Nwandu packs one hell of a punch and gets a thrilling production by Indhu Rubasingham, with a trio of fine performances.

Moses and Kitch live on the streets of an American city. They are bound together by games and rituals that keep them occupied, and sane. They often reference slavery and sometimes god. They have a private language, more personal than street talk, constantly referring to each other using the ‘n’ word. It’s sometimes impenetrable and often uncomfortable, but adds a visceral quality. They live in fear of the police.

They first encounter a naive young man on the way to see his mom, with a picnic, who seems to have lost his way. Though initially reluctant, they take up his offer to eat and drink, suspicious but grateful. Moses is more cautious than Kitch in what is a rather surreal scene. Soon after he has left, a cop pays a call for some routine intimidation; they are immediately on edge as they know full well how this could play out. They descend into more existential thoughts before a second visit from the cop, and another from the young man.

At times it appears to be repeating itself and there is an other-wordiness about the scene with the young man, but I think the comparisons with Waiting for Godot are a bit overdone. It’s very effective in addressing ‘black lives matter’ and drawing parallels with slavery, without being heavy-handed or preachy. Designer Robert Jones has brilliantly transformed the Kiln into an in-the-round space, with just a sidewalk, lamp and some signs, superbly lit by Oliver Fenwick. The production has extraordinary energy and edginess.

Paapa Essiedu has wowed me three times before, not least his Hamlet, and here he extends his range again as Moses. Gershwyn Eustache Jnr has also impressed me in the past and again he excels here as Kitch. These are stunning individual performances, but they are superb sparring with one another, verbally and physically, too. There’s great support from Alexander Eliot in two very different roles, the doubling up making a point in itself.

Don’t miss!

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