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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Karim’

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 is the second production of this show at Chichester in a decade. Given there have only been two in the West End (originating in Leicester in 1980 and the NT in 1998) in the 70 or so years since it’s UK premiere, that’s quite something. Is there some affinity between Sussex and the state of Oklahoma that I’ve missed?

It was the first of of eleven collaborations between Rogers and Hammerstein during their sixteen years writing together, including the more frequently revived Carousel, South Pacific The King & I and The Sound of Music. It was ground-breaking in so many ways, but now we can look back on their whole career it seems to have somewhat less depth than what followed. Still, how can you resist a hoe-down with some cowboys and their gals and tunes like Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top and the title song, and what other show can boast a song that became a state anthem.

It’s really a simple love story revolving around whether the farmer or the cowboy wins the heart of young farm owner Laurey. Revivals have tended to emphasise the darker side of one suitor’s jealousy and disappointment leading to rage and violence, as they do here. The lack of native American characters or references is a bit glaring, given it’s set on the eve of the statehood of Oklahoma, created from their territory and reservations, but hey, this is 75-year-old musical theatre.

Robert Jones’ set, Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes and Mark Henderson’s lighting combine to give it a terrific look, propelling you several thousand miles west and more than a hundred years back in time. There’s a windmill, giant barn doors and plenty of bales of straw. Matt Cole’s athletic choreography takes your breath away and the set pieces and dream ballet are thrilling. It’s a big fifteen piece Chichester band again, this time under MD Nigel Lilley, and they sound great. Director Jeremy Sams is the master at marshalling big resources and making something old feel as fresh as new, as he’s done with other R&H shows, and does again here.

Much of the success of the production is age appropriate casting of early career talent. Hoyle O’Grady, Amara Okereke and Emmanuel Kojo are terrific in the love triangle roles of Curly, Laurey & Jud respectively, all with fine vocals, which is the other key to the show’s success, in just about every role. Isaac Gryn and Bronte Barbe are fine too as the somewhat intellectually challenged Will and Ado Annie, and there’s a brilliantly funny cameo from Scott Karim, who makes much of the role of Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler who becomes intertwined with them.

As fine a revival as you could wish for. Given that it hasn’t has a West End outing for over twenty years, it would be good to see this one make the 70 mile journey north-east where I for one would be sure to see it again.

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