The Dishonoured, theatre review: ‘Bold spy story buckles under weight of own ambition’

A scene from The Dishonoured at the Kali Theatre. Picture: Robert Day

A scene from The Dishonoured at the Kali Theatre. Picture: Robert Day - Credit: Archant

Presenting a tale of high stakes espionage and crumbling international relations may seem like a tough ask for the static space of a theatre stage, but writer Aamina Ahmad has not been deterred in bringing her bold vision to life.

Our focus is war hero Colonel Tariq (Robert Mountford): a man of cool composure and impressive accolades.

His wife, Farah (Goldy Notay), is a frustrated creative, daubing her canvas with flicks of her paintbrush and bitterly complaining at the sacrifices she has made for her husband.

Domestic arguments are quickly silenced by Tariq’s enlistment into Pakistan’s intelligence service.

His first assignment is a murder committed by a CIA agent on home soil. A diplomatic crisis ensues and he is thrust into heated debate with his American counterpart, Lowe (David Michaels).

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If The Dishonoured marginally fails, it is because it buckles under the weight of its own ambition.

Also, rather than whipping the narrative into a fast-paced frenzy, the story is hindered by intermittent digressions, which only serve to highlight that the script could do with a ruthless edit.

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That said; the successes are numerous. Ahmad manages to convey impressively the difficulty of dealing in black and white in a world populated by grey, nebulous morality. She looks at the micro and the macro; the personal and the impersonal.

She ponders that, in the pursuit of deceit, truth is the necessary primary casualty; and once the web is woven, the progenitors have to try very hard not to succumb to their own creation.

Special mention must go to Maya Saroya, who plays prostitute-with-depth Shaida and also her sister, Gulzar.

It is a performance marked by eye-catching versatility.

Michaels too is a revelation. The Dishonoured may be a curate’s egg, but its bold intent is a breath of fresh theatrical air.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

At the Arcola Theatre in Dalston until Saturday.

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