With the opening of Dara, the National Theatre has two productions set in Asia – and another has just finished.
Set in 17th century Mughal India, Dara is about a battle for succession by two brothers. It’s “an intense domestic drama of global consequence – for India then and for our world now.”
The play joins Behind The Beautiful Forevers, another all-Asian story, but this time contemporary: it focuses on a group of rubbish sorters in a Mumbai shantytown.
They follow hard on the heels of Here Lies Love, a musical that traced the astonishing journey of Imelda Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines, from her meteoric rise to power to descent into infamy and disgrace.
Elsewhere, Vinay Patel’s play, True Brits, part of the Vault Festival in London, sweeps between the paranoid London of 2005 in the wake of the 7/7 bombings and the euphoric city of the 2012 Olympics. It's about being British of Asian descent, coming of age, falling in love, and finding a place in a society that distrusts you simply for the way you look.
Post-election Britain is the setting for Multitudes, at The Tricycle. The country is in turmoil and Kash, a liberal British Muslim, prepares his address to politicians about the state of the nation. His girlfriend Natalie, a recent convert to Islam, cooks for anti-war protesters gathered at the town hall. Lyn, her mother, moans to everyone about the decline of her cherished England. It’s all too much for Kash’s daughter, Khadira, who begins to plan a radical intervention.
British African actors have Liberian Girl, which tells one teenage girl’s story of survival in the west African country’s civil war, has just moved from the Royal Court theatre to the CLF Art Café at the Bussey Building in Peckham and then to the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham. Upper Cut at the Southwark Playhouse charts the careers of two British African politicians: “Seventy percent of my constituents are white, Karen. I have to be a politician, who ‘happens’ to be black. Not a black man who ‘happens’ to be a politician.”
In March, at the Albany, Black goes to the heart of racial tensions in the UK: “Nikki doesn't think that her Dad is a racist…. He just cares deeply about his community… But when a Zimbabwean family move in over the road, the dog won’t stop barking…the local kids start lobbing stones… and her Dad starts laying down the law.”
For the Arab world, The Singing Stones at the Arcola gives voice to the women who snitched on Gaddafi, marched on Tahrir Square and defended the bloody borders of Kurdistan. Back at the Royal Court, Dalia Taha's play, Fireworks(Al'Ab Nariya), presents a new way of seeing how war fractures childhood.
Several of these productions offer post-show discussions on the plays or the issues they cover.