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Hard Places (Colchester, Mercury Theatre Studio)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Frontiers are dangerous places, especially the man-made variety. There’s a geographical one in the setting for Farhad Sorabjee’s Hard Places; it has divided a woman whose husband was brutally executed in front of her from her two children. There’s a cultural, spiritual and intellectual one as well. That divides brother from sister, daughter from mother, mother from son.

Aziz (Nabil Stuart) and Saira (Shernaz Patel) have come to the no-man’s-land strip of ground patrolled by trigger-happy border guars with a plan to extricate their mother (Jasmina ddaniel) from the desperate situation in which she has found herself. Both the siblings, however, have other motives for so doing. Aziz has a political agenda, all neatly wrapped up in his Muslim faith. Saira is a freer spirit altogether; her politics have a different tinge.

Chris White’s production works well enough while the moral debates are in full flow. Then, just when you think that the ending we have witnessed was, in fact, the only possible one in the given circumstances, director and designer (Paul Burgess) take us into a fantasy world. Quite frankly, this doesn’t work as well as it should do.

Up to this point we’ve been engaged with real people facing the sort of dilemmas from which most of us are thankfully removed. We see them on newscasts or read about them in newspapers. We may be appalled, but our reaction is from a safe distance. Sorabjee makes these terrible realities palpable enough in some ways but fails to draw us in as close as we should be.


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