by Shahid Nadeem adapted by Tanya Ronder from a literal translation by Shahid Nadeem & Pervaiz Alam.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 4 April 2015.
2.15pm 5-7, 9, 27, 28 Feb, 2, 6, 7, 16-18, 25-28 Mar, 2, 4 Apr.
3pm 8 Feb, 1, 8, 29 Mar.
7.30pm 7, 28 Feb, 7, 17, 28 Mar, 4 Apr.
Audio-described 27 Mar, 28 Mar 2.15pm (+ Touch Tour).
Captioned 26, 29 Mar.
Runs: 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 January.
Indian epic unflavoured by Bollywood.
Suddenly, the National Theatre is beginning to reflect the wider provenance of Great Britain. November saw Rufus Norris’s production of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, David Hare’s adaptation of American journalist Katherine Boo’s Mumbai epic. Now Nadia Fall has taken on Dara Shahid Nadeem’s original play, first staged by Pakistan’s Ajoka Theatre.
South Asia has finally arrived on the South bank (which isn’t to say that stories from the Indian sub-continent and Pakistan haven’t appeared here before). But it is interesting the two productions have coincided with the arrival of Norris as Artistic Director-designate and his promise of a programme reflecting diversity. Coincidental, no doubt, since Dara has been two years in the making and was initiated by outgoing Director, Nick Hytner.
And what an initiative it turns out, bringing a slice of Mughal history to the English stage in all its pageantry and mysticism. For this is very much a story of blood, sweat, tears and faith. Like our own Wars of the Roses, there is the struggle for supremacy, power and empire building.
But injected within is a fascinating exploration of faith and the journey of Dara, the 17th century Mughal prince who died for his belief in Sufism and attempts to reconcile Muslim and Hindu.
Director Fall and designer Katrina Lindsay turn the Lyttelton stage into a setting that conjures up a variety of flavours and spaces from Persian to Indian, open palaces to intimate private rooms. Filigree screens punctuate the rapid scenes, giving an hallucinatory quality as battles rage, brothers fall-out and at its centre, Dara, arrested for apostasy is tried in court.
At a time when Islam is under scrutiny, Nadeem gives us a riveting interrogation of its deeper, quieter textures as expressed by Zubin Varla’s impassioned Dara, arguing that the road to God can and should embrace many pathways.
True, despite Tanya Ronder’s best efforts, the episodic nature of the storytelling often makes the first part bemusing. But such is the production and Varla’s amazing performance, this viewer was left enchanted and overwhelmed.
Dara: Zubin Varla.
Malik’s Watchman/Soldier/Young Aurangzeb/Kam: Gurjeet Singh.
Malik’s servant/Faqir: Scott Karim.
Siphir/Young Dara/Azam: Ronak Patani.
Malik Jiwan/ Qazi Sayed/Executioner: Emilio Doorgasingh.
Hira Bai: Anjana Vasan.
Aurangzeb: Sargon Yelda.
Murad/Danishmand: Rudi Dharmalingam.
Murad’s aide/Governor Khan/Prison Guard: Esh Alladi.
Imad: Nicholas Khan.
Massage girl: Mariam Haque.
Soldier/Jamal/Akhtar/Hussain: Gary Wood.
Emperor Shah Jahan: Vincent Ebrahim.
Jahanara: Nathalie Armin.
Roshanara: Anneika Rose.
Afia: Anjli Mohindra.
Young Roshanara: Liya Tassisa.
Young Jahanara: Mariam Haque.
Imperial Slave: Indira Joshi.
Itbar, imperial eunuch: Chook Sibtain.
Mir Khalil/Second Disciple: Nicholas Khan.
Mullah Farooq: Simon Nagra.
Prosecutor Talib: Prasanna Puwanarajah.
OId Woman/Itbar’s Mother: Indira Joshi.
Mian Mir: Ranjit Krishnamma.
Itbar’s father: Simon Nagra.
Director: Nadia Fall.
Designer: Katrina Lindsay.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Music: Niraj Chag.
Vocal Music Director: Japjit Kaur.
Company Voice work: Kate Godfrey.
Movement: Liam Steel.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate sound: Ed Feruson.