Finborough Theatre, London
Author: Carmen Nasr
Director: Georgie Staight
Producer: Flux Theatre in association with the Finborough
Cast includes: Adi Chugh, Mitzli Rose Neville, Varun Sharma, Leon Williams, Belinda Stewart-Wilson, Reena Lalbihari, Nicholas Banks, Aanya Chadha
Dates of run: Feb 5-21
Running time: 90 minutes
Either ultra-topical or else historic with contemporary resonance are the smart choices of subject matter for any playwright seeking to thrill an audience.
The building of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest structure, falls somewhere in between, given that it opened in 2010 and the maltreatment and suicides of its construction workers are old news.
One hopes the journalists who broke the story had higher principles than writer Carmen Nasr’s would-be hack, who, like the rest of the characters in this play, leaves us struggling to work out our response under Georgie Staight’s less than limpid direction.
We suspect we’re meant to be appalled and moved. The problem is we’re neither.
The moral water is muddied as the apparent villains have a point when they say the West is also riddled with questionable practices and it’s too easy for charity workers and ambitious young journalists to pick on Dubai as a hub of unscrupulous development.
The lead pairing is between Mitzli Rose Neville as aspiring journalist Clara and Nicholas Banks as Jamie, a friend she does not hesitate to use as he revels in Dubai’s expat pleasures, such as “mental” “insane” unlimited alcohol and unlimited food at hotel brunches that lay waste to entire weekends.
These two are offset by the straightforwardly Machiavellian Leon Williams as Tommie, complete with Pringle socks and tassled loafers, and Belinda Steward-Wilson as Amanda, who makes no bones about wanting to leave behind the pools of vomit on London pavements she strode away from in vertiginously high heels.
Stuck at the bottom of the wealth ladder are the construction workers – Amar (Adi Chugh) and Tanveer (Varun Sharma) – who surrender their passports and freedom to work at great heights and risk for the minimum wage. Disappointingly, they too are capable of betrayal and cruelty.
It is of course shocking, but it’s a story that has been told before with at least as much drama.
Barbara Lewis © 2017.