by Hassan Abdulrazzak.
Gate Theatre 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 21 July 2012.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Post-show Discussion 5, 12, 18 July.
Runs 1hr 40min No Interval.
TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: William Russell 25 June.
Not for the fainthearted.
Set in Cairo in January 2011 against the background of the demonstrations which led to the downfall of Egypt’s Mubarak regime, this is a curate’s egg of a play, which is to say good in parts.
A young middle-class couple whose marriage is in trouble, squabble about what each is to do and the fact they have stopped having sex. She is a mobile-telephone engineer, a left-winger excited by what is happening on the streets, tempted by her libidinous boss who wants to have an affair with her, the sort of articulate woman who appears on Newsnight.
He is a campaigning left-wing journalist turned novelist, suffering from writer’s block, who has been approached by a most peculiar lady literary agent promising to release him from whatever it is that has been preventing him from completing his novel about a messianic revolutionary figure.
The agent (Melanie Jessop) is, of course, not what she seems – anybody who wears a red plastic coat over a black cocktail dress and killer-heel shoes is never what they seem.
The background of real events is fascinating, the wife (Sasha Behar) gets a long evocative speech telling about how the middle classes and the poor combine to fight the authorities, while the husband (Nitzan Sharron) discovers the dangers of meeting women like Ms Jessop – there is a particularly nasty scene in which he is tortured.
Silas Carson gets to do a nice double act as the lecherous boss and the torturer for hire and one is never bored, but somehow the plight of this irritating young couple never really engages one’s sympathies.. Abdulrazzak caused a stir with his first play Baghdad Wedding and this, his second play, which is about betrayal and lies and how hopes for a better future can be in vain, is, for all its structural flaws, worth the wait.
The box set with back projections of scenes from the streets is terrific.
Layla: Sasha Behar.
Hani/Metwali: Silas Carson.
Suzanne: Melanie Jessop.
Hishan: Nitzan Sharron.
Director: Christopher Haydon.
Design: Holly Pigott.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Aound/Music: Alex Baranowski.
Video/Projection: Dick Straker.
Voice coach: John Tucker.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Jude Christian.