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Tales of the Harrow Road

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Written by the award-winning Anglo-Korean playwright, In-Sook Chappell following workshops with ethnic minority women in Paddington, Tales of the Harrow Road is intended to bring the stories of underrepresented communities to the stage. It’s a noble ambition, but one that falls down utterly in its presentation, in the process making a mockery of community-involved theatre.

The play touches upon many stories, but its central concerns are Leyla (Hara Yannas), a second generation Iraqi single-mother desperate to learn about her family’s heritage, and Mukti (Balvinder Sopal), a young woman whose Bangladeshi family has decided it's time she was married. These women’s stories are sensitively told at points and raise some interesting questions about immigrant experience, but director Suzanne Gorman’s decision to cast 11 non-actors alongside the four professional leads means that almost every scene is compromised by amateurism.

Yannas and Sopal, along with Badria Timimi, who plays Leyla’s mother, and Harvey Virdi, who plays the matchmaker in charge of finding Mukti a husband, do a valiant job, making the most of a bad situation, but it is impossible to focus on the nuggets of quality in this production when one is constantly distracted by inaudible dialogue or the pointless appearance of an irrelevant character (presumably included to beef up the community involvement).

Community theatre is extremely valuable, as is professional theatre about issues affecting minority communities, but there is no merit in blending the two, at least not as evidenced by this production. 


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