In the hope of much-needed donations during lockdown, director Nikolai Foster has made this archival recording, from a production last year, available to theatre lovers. Hanif Kureishi’s own adaptation of his renowned 1985 film, concerning immigration and 1980s Britain, proves a real treat.
The recording is of a dress rehearsal – so not strictly suitable for review – but well worth watching. Playing to an empty auditorium, a few of the performances are somewhat shrill. But this is impressive work in progress from the nine-strong cast that made me envy those lucky enough to have seen the show.
Gordon Warnecke (who played Omar in the original film) and Kammy Darweish play brothers from Pakistan. Kureishi’s script conveys a strong sense of their history, even though they only meet in the final scene. There’s a similarly fantastic chemistry between the leads from a younger generation – Johnny and Omar – played by Jonny Fines and Omar Malik respectively. And a strong performance from Hareet Deol as family friend Salim, who is “cunning, dangerous and a liar”, with each quality shown with convincing menace.
It’s the changes Kureishi has made to his script, which Foster directs with confidence, that fascinate. Deol benefits, as his role is far more central as part of a boosted plot. The roles of Nasser’s wife and daughter (now “a revolutionary”) have both been expanded. There’s also more to hear from Johnny’s fascist friends, a move that isn’t so successful. The two characters here are just too stupid: that may be accurate given their views, but it doesn’t serve the piece dramatically – despite the violence in the play, they are bizarrely unthreatening.
While the love affair between Johnny and Omar was explicit in the film, Kureishi spends more time with their relationship on stage. Starting as friends, their love story develops with humour, tenderness and eroticism. The romance makes for some magical theatrical moments that use Grace Smart’s set and a soundtrack from none other than the Pet Shop Boys to great effect.
Seeing this recording will surely make you miss live theatre more than ever, provoking fond memories for those lucky enough to have seen the show for real and providing a chance for the rest of us to glimpse a fascinating show I’d love to see revived sometime.
Available at www.curveonline.co.uk/the-show-must-go-online/