Review Round Up: The Boy With Two Hearts, national Theatre

We take a closer look at what critics have been saying about Amit Sharma’s production now playing at the National Theatre.

(c)Jorge Lizalde / studiocano

WhatsOnStage: *** “Amit Sharma’s production works hard to adequately portray the horrors of the journey that the family of five make across Russia, into Ukraine, Vienna and France before finally arriving in the UK. It is this final destination that the Amiris see as their salvation and where Hussein’s heart will undoubtedly be fixed. Whilst Hayley Grindle’s functional designs might lack interest overall, they do have some striking moments to portray key parts of the journey. A hidden space in a high gantry opens up to reveal the family crushed in together in the boot of a car, and a particularly claustrophobic moment sees the travellers being increasingly deprived of oxygen in the back of a lorry.”

Evening Standard: *** “It’s a simple, almost child-friendly piece of storytelling, adapted by Phil Porter from the autobiographical book by Hamed and Hessam Amiri, who’d never written before.”

London Theatre1: *** “Hayley Grindle’s set and costumes and Amy Mae’s lighting give a wonderful texture to this epic. Patriarch, Mohammed (Dana Haqjoo) balances both humour and intensity along with the rest of the cast, but this family’s relentless display of virtue should not be required for an audience to care about them as people. Despite its beauty and the importance of its themes, I found it a little flat and facile.”

The Arts Desk: *** “Engaging adaptation and sympathetic playing still leave viewers longing for more detail.”

Time Out: *** “This production is one that’s accessible in many senses – through its integrated subtitles, through its simple, easy-to-understand approach. But in its determination to tell a neatly rounded story, it neglects other, less palatable, less familiar truths.”

The Times: ** “Phil Porter’s adaptation of Hamed Amiri’s memoir has already been staged at the Wales Millennium Centre. If it were a touring production in schools you’d happily cheer it on — after all, it’s a story of human perseverance that also happens to be a paean of praise to the NHS. But the storytelling is so simplistic you can’t help wondering what the piece is doing at the National.”

The Guardian: **** “But the message of love and hope is winningly delivered – you can see why Hamed Amiri became a motivational speaker – and this is a show that deserves as wide an audience as possible, from schoolchildren to politicians.”

The Stage: *** “Refugee family’s brutal journey to the UK is creatively told.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “The Boy with Two Hearts tells a story which resonates powerfully in a modern world in which people displacement only seems likely to increase. However, the play is primarily about the emotional journey of one family and its grip grows progressively stronger as the five characters become more finely drawn. The play is heartfelt and heartwarming, twice over.”

Culture Whisper: *** “The National Theatre’s press night fell on the same day that Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced her plans to stop people claiming asylum when entering the UK through irregular routes. This is exactly how the Amiri family arrived in the UK. The United Nations refugee agency has reported that Braverman’s plan could be in breach of the refugee convention. This is why it is so important that the NT is showcasing this work: it brings to life the plight of refugees. It gives them a face and a story. It offers them humanity. Braverman and the rest of the cabinet could do with a visit to the theatre right now.”

London Theatre.co.uk: *** “Where the show works best is in the delightful interplay amongst a clearly committed company who feed off one another’s energy. That’s true even in those rather awkward sections after the interval where the house lights are raised and the audience is addressed directly as we follow Hussein through a 14-hour heart operation; the brotherly banter turns toward the comparative virtues of Arsenal and Manchester United on the road to a mother-son embrace that comes honestly by its tears.”

The Upcoming: **** “While often sentimental (how can such a personal story not be?), the production tugs on the heartstrings. It is something its audience will think about often, moving forward.”

The Boy With Two Hearts continues to play at the National Theatre until the 12th November.

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