Posts Tagged ‘Amit Sharma’

Ryan Calais Cameron’s last play (garethjames.uk/2022/04/27/For-Black-Boys-Who-Have-Considered-Suicide-When-the-Hue-Gets-Too-Heavy) was a very contemporary piece which moved from the New Diorama to the Royal Court to the West End. This new play could not be more different, moving back in time to 1950’s America at a pivotal point in both the Civil Rights movement and Senator McCarthy’s UnAmerican Activities committee, but like its predecessor it packs an extraordinary punch, in this case in just ninety minutes.

It’s set in the office of the NBC studio lawyer in Hollywood. Sidney Poitier is coming to sign his contract to appear in his white friend Bobby’s movie. It’s been a lean time since his breakthrough film Blackboard Jungle and his card has been marked by declining a role which he found unpalatable. Bobby is there at the beginning of the meeting, but after he leaves things take a dramatic turn. Parks, the lawyer, makes it clear he must sign an oath of allegiance and agree to make a statement on radio denouncing a fellow actor as a communist as a condition of getting the part. The actor is his idol Paul Robeson. He needs the work, but the price is high. We learn who’s really behind this blackmail and why his signature is so important; he will become a poster boy for them. Bobby returns and is horrified by what has gone on. He has his own dilemma – without Poitier he either has to recast or abandon his film.

It’s brilliantly written, creating an extraordinary tension in the theatre. The audience is so engaged that action and lines elicit applause and gasps. This is helped by three stunning performances. it’s a credit to Daniel Lapaine that you quickly turn against Parks and continue to find him and his attitudes and actions repulsive throughout the play. Our empathy with Ian Bonar’s Bobby grows as his friendship and commitment to Poitier grows. Ivanno Jeremiah has impressed me before on stage, notably in Constellations with Shiela Atim, and he reaches a new high here with a cool yet deeply passionate portrayal of Poitier. Frankie Bradshaw’s uber-realistic design anchors the play in it’s time and location and Amit Sharma’s staging is masterly.

World class theatre in Kilburn which also deserves to head ‘up west’ and indeed across the Atlantic. It confirms Ryan Calais Cameron as a rare talent and I for one can’t wait for his next play. Until then, if you love theatre you’ll head to the Kiln before the month is out.

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This is a true story adapted by Phil Porter from Hamed & Hessam Amiri’s memoir of their journey as refugees from Afghanistan to Wales and their lives upon and since arrival. It has transferred from the Wales Millennium Centre to the National’s Dorfman Theatre.

The sparks that lead to their decision to leave are mother Fariba’s campaign for women’s rights, as a result of which the Taliban target her, and eldest son Hussain’s need for treatment for his heart condition. Their journey is as tortuous as we have come to expect, exploited by handlers, targets for thieves, spending long periods of time in confined spaces in cars, lorries and containers. We’ve heard similar tales many times and this one is told in a style that may have been intended as accessible to children, but felt a bit patronising to me. The second half was a much more personal story and as a result captivated more, as the family establishes itself and goes about getting treatment for Hussain.

I liked a lot of director Amit Sharma’s inventiveness, particularly when actors changed characters, and the use of movement and physical theatre, but I found the continual use of surtitles in English, even when English was spoken, distracting. The five actors, who play all roles as well as the family members, are all excellent. The second half really won me over, a deeply moving story of resilience and familial love which also showed the welcome the real people of Britain are capable of, despite their leaders.

Lovely to see this heart-warming true story make it onto one of the National’s stages.

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