‘‘to’-bor-ni’, states author Ahlam’s notes, ‘a saying in Levantine Arabic used to express affection and love. ‘May you bury me’ is a declaration that one does not want to live without a loved one (or loved thing).’ As do the characters in this story, be it each other or the city of Cairo. It’s set in 2015 as the optimism generated by the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 (naively reported by many major news agencies worldwide) finally evaporated, authoritarian rule reasserting itself, extinguishing the joy of a younger generation believing they might finally have the freedom to express themselves as themselves… rather than as a product of their family, religion or politics.
The action hurtled along pell mell, representing the vibrancy and volatility of Cairo but an occasional drop in tempo might have allowed the context some sharper focus. Amidst the blur there were comic turns, Alia and Tamer’s (Hanna Khogali and Moe Bar-El respectively) fumbled attempts at intimacy and the scene-stealing exuberance of Maya (Yasemin Ozdemir) as she tried to administer a makeover to Lina (Eleanor Nawali). There was the anguish of concerned journalist Osman (Tarrick Benham) and the cynical flippancy of his beloved – but unscheduled – lodger Rafik (Nezar Alderazi) but we never felt the full impact of the fear and unease that pervaded our crew’s lives. For a muslim in love with a christian, or anyone contemplating a same-sex relationship this was a genuinely scary place. Never mind daring to challenge the ruling powers.
This was well-lit, well-acted, had a great set and was entertaining, but one couldn’t help feeling there was still room for something that might have troubled the audience as it moved back out into the cold. It elicited smiles and laughter, but it could have moved us more.
Playing at The Royal Lyceum until March 18th. https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/you-bury-me-1
Reviewer: Roger Jacobs
Reviewed: 8th March 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★
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