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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Jayawardena’

The premiere of this Ayub Khan Din’s play was twenty-five years ago, and it’s set 25 years before that. It was his first play, at least partly based on his own life experiences. In a programme Q&A he suggests in might not have been put on today because of the sensitivities about ‘what we write about ourselves and what people write about us’. That would have been a tragedy, as in this new production by Iqbal Khan it proves to be a timeless reflection on, and illumination of, the British Asian experience. It’s also very funny.

George came to the UK from Pakistan in 1936. He married British native Ella and they have seven children. One is estranged after refusing an arranged marriage, but the other six are still at home, helping out in the family business, a fish & chip shop in Salford. He tries to impose his Muslim traditions but they rebel; they were born and brought up in the UK. One seems to be loyal, another respectful but questioning and three clear rebels. The youngest is lost in his own world, yet to form his views.

The primary issues are circumcision, somewhat late, for youngest Sajit and arranged marriages for Abdul & Tariq to Mr Shah’s daughters. George is determined to exercise what he sees as his rightful authority as their father, but the sons (egged on by their feisty sister Meenah) are resolute that they are British not Pakistani and that these traditions have no place here. A culture clash that perhaps many British Asians experience between the world in which they’ve been brought up and the traditions that their parents brought here with them. George does himself no favours by the way he treats his wife, and her knowledge that there is another wife back in Pakistan. Apart from the 70’s clothes and decor, it could be today.

One of the key’s to the success of this revival is the superb ensemble, banishing memories of the two productions I’ve seen before. Tony Jayawardena and Sophie Stanton are both superb at conveying the cultural tensions George & Ella have to live with, but also the love they have for one another and their children. The six siblings are all terrific at conveying the whole spectrum of loyalty / rebelliousness, and Rachel Lumberg is wonderful as family friend Auntie Annie – she gets some of the best lines, including the play’s best joke, commenting on the gifts Sajit gets after his circumcision.

A great production of what now seems to be a modern classic.

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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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What better way to launch London’s newest theatre than to reunite the creative team behind London’s biggest recent comedy hit, One Man, Two Guvnors, and it’s great to report that both the theatre and the show are a big success.

Richard Bean & Clive Coleman’s play tells the true story of Karl Marx’s period of exile in London, whilst he writes his definitive work, Das Kapital. He’s living in Soho with his wife Jenny, children Qui Qui and Fawksy and their housekeeper Nym (all nicknames). They are spied on by the Prussians and their Communist League is watched over by the British authorities too. Good friend and benefactor Friedrich Engels pays regular visits from Manchester, where he’s a cotton baron, but a secret commie. They are broke, so the police, pawnbrokers and bailiffs all make appearances. Everyone indulges Marx, until he crosses a line which threatens to turn them all away.

Though it’s historically true, it’s often very funny, occasionally farcical and always entertaining. There’s a delicious running joke about the early days of the police and Charles Darwin turns up in a delightful cameo. It’s surprising how the political views still sound fresh; you could hear them being spoken today by left-wing politicians, and increasingly by disaffected ordinary people – like me! Designer Mark Thompson has built a revolving structure which becomes the Marx living room, a pub where the league meets, a pawnbrokers, the British Library Reading Room, the outside of a church and Hampstead Heath! Nicholas Hytner’s production has great pace, but it’s never rushed. It takes an unexpected dark turn, and ends more gently and thoughtfully.

Rory Kinnear’s performance as Marx is very athletic, with great comic timing. At one point, from my front row seat, I feared for his safety. Nancy Carroll is superb as Jenny, loyalty tested at every turn. Oliver Chris continues to impress, this time as Engels, with great chemistry with Kinnear’s Marx. The ever wonderful Laura Elphinstone is excellent as Nym. In the supporting cast, Eben Figueiredo, Miltos Yerolemou and Tony Jayawardena all shine as Konrad Schramm, Emmanuel Barthelemy and ‘Doc’ Schmidt respectively.

A lovely evening to welcome a new theatre and the return of a great contemporary playwright. With this, Ink, Oslo, Labour of Love and Albion, we’re on a real new writing roll in London.

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