Paradise of the Assassins at Tara Theatre
A tale about medieval Persia but still relevant to today’s world, award-winning Paradise of the Assassins – adapted from Abdul Halim Sharar’s novel by director Anthony Clark – is the debut production at London’s stunning new Tara Theatre.
With a narrative in which all is not what it seems, the play demonstrates well how young terrorists are brainwashed through clever and insidious methods. In Clark’s words: “The struggle for people of faith not to compromise what they believe in the face of unforeseen circumstances goes to the heart of the human condition…terror as political phenomenon…am interested in the perpetrator who is also a victim”. Also about love and religion, it is deeply philosophical, examining the human condition and questioning the meaning of our existence.
Deeply in love, Zamurrud (Skye Hallam) and Hussain (Asif Khan) have risked everything to elope to Mecca, but after a detour, they are separated, and Zamurrad is apparently killed. Devastated, not leaving her grave for months, Hussain learns he can be with her in Paradise if he renounces his faith and devoutly follows a ruthless group of religious fanatics. Initially speaking words of wisdom – “First we must know who we are as individuals and only then understand the group with whom we are affiliated…Body must have time to itself as must the soul…” – their Imams offer promises of the joys of Paradise, but soon reveal their true intent: “Ours is a holy war to advance the Caliphate” and “You have a duty to kill the infidels”.
Well-conceived and original, the play is part theatrical-drama, part comedy and part musical. Witty dialogue abounds, highlighting with humour small power struggles between men and women over, such as, which direction to travel and jousting with words: (Hussain) “The first time I saw you I thought the moon and sun shone in your eyes.” (Zamurrud) “We were six”.
The performers’ convincing portrayals mesmerise, even as the relatively small cast changes roles. With an effectively simple set, the lighting is particularly effective, adding drama and visual nuance.
A superb piece, especially outstanding is Clark’s adaptation and direction. A chronicle of wisdom, Paradise of the Assassins is also a significant, revealing analysis of terrorist extremism, delving into important issues. Well-balanced elements of drama, humour, music and philosophy form a thought-provoking and highly entertaining work.
Paradise of the Assassins is at Tara Theatre from 15th September until 8th October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Paradise of the Assassins here: