Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes @ Arcola Theatre, London – July 2014

Based on a short story by Hassan Blasim, The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes by Rashid Razaq charts the experiences of Salim, an Iraqi refugee who takes on a new identity in London after fleeing persecution in Baghdad.

carlosCarlos Fuentes finds himself marrying a wealthy older woman who takes him under her wing and enthusiastically coaches him for his forthcoming citizenship test. However, he can never really escape the memories of the war-torn country and the family he has left behind to suffer the devastation and, as the nightmares of his past catch up with him, he suddenly finds himself being deported with little recollection of why.

The action takes place between 2006 and 2011, interspersing Salim’s memories and experiences in both Baghdad and London with real, historic footage of world leaders fervently voicing their thoughts on the desperate situation of the time. This, combined with the hellish accounts of Salim’s wife as she struggles alone, highlights the contrast between politics and bloody reality for civilians.

Despite the grave subject matter, Rashid Razaq’s gem of a script is littered with humour delivered with immaculate timing and panache by Nabil Elouahabi (some may remember him as the equally confused ‘Gary’ in Only Fools and Horses many moons ago). The near-constant, giggle-inducing moments make flashes of seriousness particularly hard-hitting and Elouahabi handles these transitions with ease.

Sympathetic and hard-edged in equal measure, his performance is complemented perfectly by a sultry, forgiving Caroline Langrishe in the role of his second wife, Lydia, and Sara Bahadori and Selva Rasalingam who skilfully double up to play case worker, security guard, Iraqi colleague and wife.

Ellan Parry’s set design is a joy, fluidly depicting hotel rooms in London, bomb-ravaged streets of Baghdad and detention centres as Nicolas Kent’s slick direction ensures the story whips along.

Particularly hard-hitting in the current climate where daily reports from Gaza of violence and massacre have become the norm, this is an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece which, coupled with the delightful surroundings of Dalston’s classy Arcola, should not be missed.

Photo: Selva Rasalingam and Nabil Elouahabi
© Judy Goldhill

The Tempest @ Cockpit Theatre, London – July 2014

Formed in 2012, Tree Folk Theatre prides itself on breathing new life into classic stories, filling them with inventive touches with the use of puppetry, masks and live music and song. The company’s first two works were derived from folk tales, but what better Shakespeare play for them to tackle and lend such innovation to than The Tempest, with its diverse collection of characters, multi-layered imagery and supernatural overtones.

Presented in the round, this production places emphasis on music and physicality from start to end, beginning and concluding the action with sequences which are presumably intended to depict the wedding of Alonso’s daughter to the King of Tunis or that of Miranda and Ferdinand, or both. James E. Anderson’s original score is intelligently crafted, contrasting airy ballads with crashing, dissonant chords to match the varying moods of the piece.  Lauren Cameron’s set design is simple yet effective and the cast make energetic use of the space throughout but particularly at the beginning when the entire area becomes the storm-battered boat.

IMGA0302Tree Folk’s Prospero consists intriguingly of a large mask with an aged face and mass of seaweed tresses sported by Maia Kirkman-Richards who pulls off the dialogue and the paternal side of the character surprisingly convincingly. Other gender-bending touches include Amy Lawrence’s flighty, feathery Ariel and Ellen Butler’s impish, amusing Trinculo, with the same actress doubling up as Gonzalo. Worthy also of particular mention is Stuart Mortimer who creates a hilarious, belching Stephano, but the real show-stealer is Caliban, a puppet in four or five parts operated by several actors, the disjointed, fluid nature of which IMGA0330combined with Jannik Archer’s deliberate yet dulcet delivery  serves perfectly to enhance the character’s chaotic, troubled existence.

The renunciation of Prospero’s magic at the play’s conclusion consists not only of the removal of his gown but of the mask to fully expose the actress, and the gradual return of Maia Kirkman-Richards’ voice to its natural pitch in Prospero’s final soliloquy enhances further his submission to normality. This is not only a brilliantly original and creative touch on the part of director Alice Sillett, but testament to the skill of the actress because despite being a strange and unconventional deviation it seems a natural conclusion and serves perfectly to heighten the feelings of reconciliation and resolution.

This delightful production is a must-see for anyone who likes their Shakespeare with a twist and will appeal particularly to younger theatre-goers.

Photographs by Chris Jones: Maia Kirkman-Richards as Prospero and Jannik Archer as Caliban.