Andy Howells reviews The Boy with Two Hearts at The Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre.
Set in the year 2000, The Boy with Two Hearts follows the story of a young mother, Fariba Amiri, who makes a speech demanding freedom for Afghan women in Herat, Afghanistan. Following her brave statement, her family are forced to go on the run when the local Taliban issue a warrant for her execution.
So begins a long, uncertain, and frequently dangerous journey from Afghanistan across Europe of fake passports, untrustworthy handlers and living with nothing but hope. Getting to the UK becomes the focus of the Amiri’s goal and a race against time, particularly as their destination can provide, the families eldest son, Hussein with the heart surgery he badly needs.
The Boy with Two Hearts: “An Intimate, Lively and Positive Production.”
Based on the book by Hamed Amiri, The Boy with Two Hearts is adapted for the stage by Phil Porter in collaboration with Hamed and Hessam Amiri. The stage presentation is an intimate, lively and frequently positive production, despite the frequently troubling situation of the Amiri family’s plight.
Featuring the actors performing on a two-level set, the narrative is supplemented with projected animated subtitles that not only come alive on the backdrop of a sparse set, but also work in conjunction with helping the actors tell the story as the Amiri family are shuttled across Europe on aeroplanes, car boots and backs of lorries.
The narrative of the story is presented through strong performance and choreography by the main cast of five actors, Shamail Ali, Dana Haqjoo, Farshid Rokey, Ahmad Sakhi and Géhane Strehler. While keeping the beat of the Amiri family alive on stage, the cast also step into supporting roles from Taliban Soldiers and passport officers to handlers and doctors. I was enthralled by the sheer energy and versatility of these fine actors and how. as a team they drove the pace of the script along.
Seamlessly enabling the Amiri family story to flow further is singer Elaha Soroor (the co-composer of the featured music), who appears as an omnipresent angel of light performing songs while occasionally moving around the cast. Her presence adds much in the way of light and shade to the story’s unfolding soundtrack.
The Boy With Two Hearts Underlying Humour
I found The Boy with Two Hearts real strength is its underlying humour which is beautifully peppered throughout the story. From the Amiri boys’ excitement of pretending to play for Manchester United and watching a Russian dubbed episode of Knight Rider on TV to hearing their fathers “Dad jokes” these moments really bring the family to life. As in many a desperate situation, sometimes the ability to laugh at a situation or circumstance, no matter how bad, can provide an inner strength to move forward. This is so present here, particularly as you remember that three of the Amiri family were still children when this was happening to them.
The Boy with Two Hearts not only serves as an education of a family’s desperate plight in modern times, but also a piece of uplifting, positive theatre for everyone.
The Boy with Two Hearts continues at Wales Millennium Centre’s Weston Studio until October 23. The production has a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes (including 1 interval) age guidance of 10+ and features occasional strong language, flashing lights and the use of haze.
- Book tickets for The Boy with Two Hearts here
- Photographs from The Boy with Two Hearts by Jorge Lizalde