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A CurtainUp London Review
The play follows three friends who meet while studying at university in London, and then as they return to their homeland, now wracked by war. They are young, wealthy, well-educated and cosmopolitan. Salim (Matt Rawle) is an extrovert, daringly controversial novelist, who decides to go back to Baghdad to get married. Marwan (Nitzan Sharron) is Salim's best friend. He is shy, unassuming and acts as the play's narrator. Luma (Sirine Saba) is a medical student, equally dazzled by Salim's brilliance. When disaster strikes on Salim's wedding day, the scenes shift between cities and memories, encompassing student parties, a base of Iraqi insurgents and American torturous interrogation.
Swift, fluid scene changes add a sense of pace to the play and the characters energetically navigate the angled, crumbled slab of stone which dominates the stage. The cast are well-chosen and in particular, Matt Rawle's charisma and stage confidence makes him perfect for the role of Salim. Nitzan Sharron also adds sterling support as the character who holds the play's fabric together.
There are some unmistakable signs that this is a first play. At times it feels that the plot lacks an overall coherence and the odd line jars. Nevertheless, Hassan Abdulrazzak is obviously a playwright of promise. His play does not really provide any original political comment, but Abdulrazak's focus is in providing us with a very human perspective. His insight into a certain section of Iraqi society, the liberal-minded intelligentsia, is unique. Similarly, there is rare, poignant sense of loss for Baghdad's irreplaceable beauty, as well as the finely-tuned nostalgia alternating with hope for a damaged homeland.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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