Mirza Tahir Hussain is a British subject from Leeds who spent 18 years on death row in a Rawalpindi prison for allegedly murdering a taxi driver in Pakistan.
He tells the Scottish journalist Don Mackay of the Daily Mirror, who visits him, that he acted in self defence when the cab driver demanded sex and his passport at gun point.Mackay is married to actress Nichola McAuliffe who has written the play and appears in it as herself (Mackay is played by Tom Cotcher), acting offstage in a Coward production she doesn’t think much of and praying to St Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes.
It’s an intriguing, powerful show that makes less of Tahir’s supposed innocence than the general lack of humanity in the disgusting conditions of the prison and the strong possibility that Tahir’s case was permanently back-burnered by our own government in the year of the Salman Rushdie fatwah, the salmonella outbreak and the Lockerbie air disaster.
The stalemate is broken when McAuliffe writes to Prince Charles who then intervenes with the president of Pakistan. Mackay’s Mirror campaign never takes off once his hard won exclusive is hidden away in the back half of the paper.
The play is very good at airing these frustrations, the stonewalling of bureaucracy, and the volatile relationship of McAuliffe and Mackay. Tahir is played with an exhausted but riveting spiritual intensity by Kulvinder Ghir, and his loyal brother by Shiv Grewal.
- Michael Coveney
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