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Theatre Review Edifying storytelling

DAVID NICHOLSON reviews the heart-warming narrative of a family of refugees fleeing the Taliban

The Boy with Two Hearts
Millennium Centre, Cardiff

 

THE return to theatre at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre has been celebrated with a production of Hamed Amiri’s The Boy with Two Hearts, the first Welsh refugee story to be brought to the iconic venue.

It tells the story of the Amiri family’s flight from the Taliban in 2000, to seek refugee status in Britain. The play is based on the book of the same title, published by Hamed (played here by Farshid Rokey) last year.

The family’s flight from the Taliban, leaving their home town of Herat, is prompted by a public speech by mum Fariba (Gehane Strehler), decrying the religious fundamentalists’ treatment of women and girls. The inevitable backlash from the country’s violent rulers prompts the Amiri family to flee.

Ahmad Sakhi is convincing as older brother Hussein, who suffers from a serious heart condition. Hussein has already had two operations, with local doctors telling his parents that the treatment he needs can be found in the US or Britain.

What a paradox that the countries where they could seek refuge or receive life-saving treatment are the very regimes that armed and supported the Taliban in their fight against the Soviet Union.

The tiny staging of the play is imaginatively used to convey the Amiri family’s home and then their 18-month journey to safety.

Co-composer and singer Elaha Soroor is ever present on stage, stealing the show with achingly beautiful singing.

Almost the whole of the first half is given over to the family’s journey across Europe, and does begin to drag a little.

But what is vividly shown by the actors and staging is the role that luck and chance plays for refugees, as the family meet familiar fellow Afghans along the way and receive their vital help.

As youngest son Hessam (Shamail Ali) says of the gruelling journey: “One bit of luck makes all the difference.”

The family eventually make it to France, where they make repeated attempts to cross the Channel. Dana Haqjoo’s patient father Mohammed eventually guides them to Britain, hitching a lift on the shuttle train that runs below the perils of the water.

Arriving in Cardiff to be housed must have been a shock to the refugee family, but they are welcomed into the community and the urgent heart treatment Hussein needs can start.

This is a beautifully acted story of hope and compassion and a fitting tribute to all refugees.

Plays until October 23 – details at wmc.org.uk

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