Theatre in Wales

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“Wales Millennium Centre- Heart-on-sleeve, All the More Moving For It”

At Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre- The Boy with Two Hearts , Wales Millennium Centre , October 10, 2021
At Wales Millennium Centre by Wales Millennium Centre- The Boy with Two Hearts The first major production in Cardiff since the pandemic received four star reviews all round.

From the Guardian:

“...“You want your children growing up in a country run by thugs?” asks Fariba (Géhane Strehler) when she gives a speech in a school playground. Fariba has three sons but feels a sense of duty to the neighbourhood’s daughters and their right to education, employment and independence. Her tirade reaches the Taliban and Fariba, her husband Mohammed (Dana Haqjoo) and their boys must flee for safety, choosing the UK as their destination as the eldest son Hussein (Ahmad Sakhi) has a life-threatening heart condition and needs treatment.

“The story written by the other two brothers, Hamed and Hessam (played by Farshid Rokey and Shamail Ali), adapted for the stage by Phil Porter, is split between two nerve-racking journeys. The first, via snowy Moscow and refugee camps in Europe, is to arrive in England as refugees.

“...The second path they take is through the healthcare system. On both journeys they rely on the kindness of strangers, but we also see how encountering so much cruelty en route to England leaves Hamed mistrustful of others.

“Amit Sharma’s inventive production for Wales Millennium Centre has clarity and immediacy. At the heart of Hayley Grindle’s design is a raised semi-circle stage that glows from underneath and switches from the warm sofra where the family eat to the anonymous, cold locations through which they pass.

“The play keenly explores how a sense of home can be quickly lost but also re-established in precarious circumstances. Clothes hang from the rafters of WMC’s studio space and half-unpacked cases surround the stage, with the multi-role actors picking up and discarding jackets for different characterisations. The cast of five are so close-knit as the family that it feels shocking when one of them breaks off to play an antagonist.

“...Hayley Egan’s video design combines well with Grindle’s set, which has captions creatively embedded. A rich range of typography is used to signal the methods of transportation the family takes: their names are all squeezed inside a car boot and we see the word “aeroplane” take off along a runway. When the stage is filled with projections listing possible diagnoses for Hussein, we sense the family’s rising fear.

“The second half of the play is less successful, partly because too often the actors step out of the story to narrate it. But the message of love and hope is winningly delivered – you can see why Hamed Amiri became a motivational speaker – and this is a show that deserves as wide an audience as possible, from schoolchildren to politicians.”

Dominic Maxwell for “The Times” praised the production, albeit calling for “harsher editing in the story-telling”. But “Amit Sharma's production makes up for that with its vivid sense of family” with praise for Ahmad Saki, Farshid Rokey, Shamail Ali, Gehane Strehler and Dana Haqjoo. He also picked out the singing from Elaha Soroor.

Dominic Cavendish for the Telegraph: “This adaptation at Wales Millennium Centre of Hamed Amiri’s 2020 book is heart-on-sleeve, not agit-prop. and all the more moving for it.”

From Get the Chance:

“The Boy with Two Hearts” is a beautifully artistic piece of theatre which tells an authentic and heartbreaking story, of inequality, struggle, and hope.

“...First to step out on stage and introduce us to this story is the beautiful solo voice of Afghan singer Elaha Soroor. Soroor’s gentle tone and almost-hypnotising lyrics seem to carry the story along, she acts as an angel of death alongside the family. It is poignant that her voice and presence is consistent throughout our journey even though the Amiri’s are facing turmoil and pressure at every turn. 

“...The switch in language between Farsi and English, along with the projections of captions onto the raised level of staging behind our actors, was a highlight of the production for me.

“...the hospital sequence, Hussein’s character is receiving cardioversion to the heart which is portrayed through physical acts of slow motion, sound, and a strong pulse of lighting. We can feel the beat of the scene and are on tenterhooks waiting for the outcome, much like the other characters in the story. Key thematic words were made to stand out in the light, given their moment to make impact and resonate with us, and then left lingering in our minds for hours if not days after the play was over.

“...”The Boy with Two Hearts” is a must-watch for every audience, it’s a dynamic insight into the inequalities and cruel structures of our world, where a resilient family must fight for their right to freedom, safety, and a place to call home.”

Quoted, with thanks, from the full reviews which can be read at:

Times and Telegraph subscibers only.

Photograph credit: Jorge Lizalde Cano

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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