Artistic director Christopher Haydon’s outstanding new production reaches the parts other plays don’t. Visceral, verbally dextrous, edgy, exciting, darkly humorous and downright riveting; from the opening lines, The Prophet, the second play by award-winning playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak, takes you into areas you may have never visited and indeed may never wish to; but there’s no turning back, no opting out, you are a captive audience and only the final truths can free you.

It’s 28 January 2011 and Egypt stands on the brink of revolution. For Layla and Hisham, a young couple living in downtown Cairo, this is one day they will never forget, a day of decisions, a day of confrontation, a day of truth in which a dictatorial and corrupt government is only one of their problems.

Hisham has writer’s block; his anti government novel has come to a halt. As he lounges around waiting for inspiration his young wife tries to persuade him to join the protests as she is passionate about change and feels a desperate need to participate, not stand on the sidelines or watch in safety. That would betray a lack of commitment, a position that is reflected in the stagnant state of their seven-year marriage. As the world shifts around them, long hidden secrets threaten to emerge and tear them apart.

Nitzan Sharron & Melanie Jessop in The Prophet (photo: Simon Kane)
Holly Pigott’s neutral, sand coloured, claustrophobic set, with its pigeon-holed wall down one side, not only allows us to move freely from place to place but by using a gauze screen two thirds of the way back allows the projection of images and newsreel (created by Dick Straker). This creates the illusion of a 3D world outside intruding into the space, whilst Mark Howland’s atmospheric lighting increases the intensity of the mood changes.

The cast are exceptional: Sasha Behar’s Layla is powerful, passionate, spellbinding and stunningly beautiful; Nitzan Sharron’s Hisham is painfully poignant, and deeply moving, making us feel every moment of his interrogation; Silas Carson does a remarkable job as both Hani, Layla’s boss and then as Metwali, whose polite exterior contrasts with his passion and aggression when crossed. And Melanie Jessop’s Suzanne, the publisher who has offered to help Hisham out, is sexy, sultry and ultimately very scary.

This is a production not to be missed; it’s not a comfortable ride but it's one well worth taking.

- Dave Jordan