The TheatreguideLondon Review
Gate Theatre Summer 2012
There's a strong tradition, particularly in America, of plays that address large social or political issues by looking at how they affect the domestic lives of ordinary people. The risk in this approach is that you can trivialise the large topic while exposing the banality of the local story.
Hassan Abdulrazzak's new play doesn't completely escape that danger, straying perilously too close to saying that the most significant accomplishment of the Egyptian street revolution of January 2011 was freeing a minor novelist from his writer's block.
Hisham and his wife Layla are Cairo-based liberals, longtime opponents of the Mubarak regime, but when the people take to the streets and Layla feels drawn to join them, Hisham is more concerned with meeting a literary agent who may help him find Western publishers.
The play then follows them through the day and meets its first insurmountable challenge. Unable to dramatise the events in the streets, even with some film projections, the playwright must resort to narrative, giving Layla several long speeches describing what she saw and experienced out there. Meanwhile Abdulrazzak can show us Hisham's day, and so his experience inevitably takes up more of the play, and is more real to us, than his wife's.
And that leads to the second problem because (without giving away too much) we'll eventually learn that some of what we see in Hisham's story didn't actually happen. And so we are likely to feel doubly cheated, not shown what the play keeps telling us is the important story and shown what it will disown.
Nitzan Sharron succeeds in making Hisham's adventure seem more real than we will be told it was, though he can't make us care as much about him as we do about what's happening offstage. Too much of Sasha Behar's role as Layla is simple exposition and narrative, but the actress does all she can to make it come alive. Silas Carson, in two sharply contrasting roles, and Melanie Jessop work hard to turn what are essentially plot devices into believable characters.
Review - The Prophet - Gate Theatre 2012
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