Tag Archives: Nathalie Armin

“The Motherf**cker In The Hat” at the National Theatre

A play that comes with its own stars, albeit an excessively modest two of them, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Broadway hit may have a title that fits uncomfortably with the National Theatre’s augustness, but The Motherf**cker In The Hat is a quality play that London should welcome. Detailing the struggles and affairs between a drug addict on probation, his ‘sponsor’ and their girlfriends, the work’s vigorous language belies its old-fashioned enquiry into morality.

Jpeg 1Ricardo Chavira plays Jackie, a troubled convict following a plan to free himself from addiction with a suitably cynical edge, making our hero hugely appealing despite his faults. Flor De Liz Perez (pictured) performs as Jackie’s partner, delivering vicious tirades with verve. Also from the States comes Yul Vázquez as Cousin Julio, delivering a marvellously understated, original performance. Completing this strong cast, directed flawlessly by Indhu Rubasingham, are Nathalie Armin as the unfortunate wife of the rehabilitated Ralph, the philandering sponsor with a PhD in persuasion, depicted brilliantly by Alec Newman as a devil who firmly believes he has all the best lines.

It can’t be denied that the play is reminiscent of a soap opera (or should that be a telenovela?), but the sordid plot twists, while predictable, are expertly handled and feel believable. Likewise, the bad language and lurid insults play their part, not just in making the script very funny, but in creating characters you really fall for. For all the shouting on stage, this is a work that quietly ensures we take seriously the questions it’s asking – about how to be good.

The play is calmer, less surreal, than Adly Guirgis’ other works seen in London. It’s tempting to say it feels more grown up, as that’s clearly one of the themes here; the talk of prayers and pharmaceuticals both play a part in questioning responsibility and relationships. Jackie and Ralph are just young men, with more than enough faults and few excuses. But Jackie has a heart and the potential for goodness that feels realistic and makes this play an unusually sharp comedy.

Until 20 August 2015


Photo by Mark Douet

“Dara” at the National Theatre

With Behind The Beautiful Forevers still running – and well worth watching – The National Theatre offers another, very different, view of the Indian subcontinent with Dara. Adapted for a Western audience by Tanya Ronder, from Shahid Nadeem’s play, this historical epic shows the battle between Shah Jahan’s sons for the Mughal Empire. It’s a riveting story, all the more exciting if you aren’t familiar with the history (imagine the Tudors without knowing Henry had six wives); a family drama boasting an ambitious sense of scale that makes it topical too.

Nadia Fall’s quick-fire direction stages the action with speed, while Katrina Lindsay’s design and a large cast creates a sumptuous feel. Though a wide span of time is covered (the play is long, but never droops) and some roles are feel curtailed, Vincent Ebrahim manages to give Shah Jahan great depth, and Nathalie Armin is superb as his daughter, Jahanara. Zubin Varla takes the title role, a hugely satisfying character, saintly yet very human and ferociously intelligent. Dara’s fate is to be tried for apostasy – his own defence in court is fantastic theatre.

Sargon Yelda and Anjana Vasan

Dara is as much about Shah Jahan’s other son, Aurangzeb, who claimed the throne and rejected both Sufism and the religious toleration that Dara explored. A tyrannical figure, Sargon Yelda’s performance as Aurangzeb is wonderfully layered. A brief, exquisitely crafted scene with his Hindu lover, ably played by Anjana Vasan, really helps. Aurangzeb isn’t just a villain and the play’s exploration of the need to choose between “faith or family” makes it great drama. It’s Dara’s religious content that makes it feel so urgent – presenting the “broken prince”, a figure to revere despite his fall from power, it provides a different view of religion at a time when one is so desperately needed.

Until 4 April 2015


Photos by Ellie Kurttz