The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes at the Arcola
The Nightmare of Carlos Fuentes, by Rashid Razaq based on a short story by Hassan Blasim, is a show they call a black comedy, but the comedy is rather light-hearted with a sombre message. Carlos Fuentes, aka Salim Hussain goes through trials seeking a better life in “the land of the just…somewhere really ungodly”: Britain.
The story follows the character Fuentes/Hussain as he travels across the world to become a British man and a refugee unlike any other. Voilà, he succeeds – partially. Fuentes/Hussain’s reasoning and thinking is unprecedented. Undoubtedly, he is the live, Iraqi equivalent of Borat. The humour had everyone laughing, although there were the occasional lulls in the audience where there should have been laughter. The audience varied from about 20 to 60-year-olds, definitely a crowd that could tolerate sexist, racist and ageist jokes.
Comedy flowed through the use of accents, which were all on point. Inevitable miscommunication between characters brought to mind memories of those frustrating and tantalising experiences faced by all of us, at least once. And mispronunciations were a laugh: ‘King C*nt of the 11th century’ was definitely a hit with everyone.
All in all the show was good; there were some scenes that dragged unnecessarily, and others that had people with their heads flung back, roaring with laughter. The four-strong cast consisted of Nabil Elouahabi (Fuentes), Caroline Langrishe who played Lydia, Sara Bahadoori as the case worker/Sahar, and Selva Rasalingam who played Kevin/ Khaled. These four created a world spanning both Iraq and England, which could be viewed from any of the three decent angles the theatre offered.
The transitions between the scenes were long winded, with short video clips of speeches or the news playing each time. This was evidently done to give the characters a chance to ready themselves for their next appearance. Though this was forgiveable, because the characters emerged flawlessly into their roles each time.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes is at the Arcola Theatre until 13th August 2014, for further information or to book visit here.