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Cry Havoc by Tom Coash at Park Theatre | Review

Cry Havoc - James El-Sharawy - Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.
Cry Havoc – James El-Sharawy – Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.

Tom Coash’s new play Cry Havoc is set mainly in a pokey, claustrophobic one-room apartment in a run-down street in Cairo. Mohammed (played by James El-Sharawy) is recently released from prison where he was incarcerated for his political views, but his sexuality has also paid a part in him being locked up and he returns having been sadistically brutalised by his captors. He is soon joined by Nicholas (Marc Antolin), an English translator with whom Muhammed has been having a relationship in a county where homosexuality is frowned upon. Nicholas tends to his lovers’ wounds and tells him that they should leave Egypt and move to England where they would be free to continue their relationship without the fear of prison or even worse. But Muhammed is conflicted and isn’t sure that he should leave the country of his birth for a country that he knows nothing about where he would be a stranger in a strange land.

Coash’s play couldn’t have been timelier with the recent announcement that in another Muslim country, Bahrain, homosexuality will in future be punishable by the stoning to death of anyone caught breaking the law against same-sex relationships. The play touches on various issues such as colonialism, radicalisation, persecution, freedom of expression and forbidden love.

The drama is played out in a dozen or so short scenes with blackouts in between that at times don’t allow the narrative to flow but the interaction between the two men is very real and we feel their pain as they try to resolve the situation, they find themselves in.

If Cry Havoc sounds like a typical two-hander, well it isn’t! About half-way through the play, out of one of the blackouts, a woman appears. This is Ms Nevers (Karren Winchester) an official at the British Embassy that Nicholas visits in order to get Mohammed a visa so that he can escape to the UK and start a new life. There then follows a surreal scene where she makes an odd and out of context speech about love whilst telling Nicholas to take off various items of clothing including his shoes and socks as the air conditioning wasn’t working! She reappears in a couple more scenes but adds nothing at all to the plot. I have no idea why this extra character was needed as we don’t find out that the visa was granted until Nicholas presents it to Muhammed. Without this superfluous third character and the scenes at the embassy, there would have been more time to develop the relationship between the two lovers which the play warranted.

The performances by all three actors are fine and well directed by Pamela Scherrman with El-Sharawy the stand-out as his character is allowed to develop throughout the piece. Antolin has less to get his teeth into and consequently disappoints a little.

The production is very atmospheric with excellent use of mood-changing Arabic music and moody lighting from Petr Vocka and a realistic set from Emily Bestow.

The subject matter of Cry Havoc is timeless and could easily have been played out in many countries around the world, not just in a Muslim one. It has a certain power but the intervention of the third character and the episodic nature of the production makes it three stars rather than the four-star powerhouse it could have been.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

In present-day Cairo, two men are forced to confront their cultural identities, traditions and a repressive government in a gripping search for love and faith.

Cry Havoc is a passionate love story between a spirited young Egyptian and an idealistic British writer.

Tom Coash’s poignant, intimate play explores the relationship between the Western world and the Islamic Middle East through the eyes of two people asking if love can bridge even the widest cultural divide.

CAST
NICHOLAS FIELD – MARC ANTOLIN
MOHAMMED EL-MASRI – JAMES EL-SHARAWY
MS NEVERS – KARREN WINCHESTER

CREATIVES
WRITER – TOM COASH
DIRECTOR – PAMELA SCHERMANN
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER – EMILY BESTOW
LIGHTING DESIGNER – PETR VOCKA
SOUND DESIGNER – JULIAN STARR

Booking to 20th April 2019
Park Theatre

Author

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