The Boy with Two Hearts ★★★ National Theatre | Oct 1 - Nov 12, 2022

The Boy with Two Hearts tells an affecting and affirmative true story. After the mother of an Afghan family speaks out about women's rights, the Taliban target the parents and children, and they must flee their country. Their ultimate destination is the UK where they hope to find medical help for their eldest son who has a serious heart condition. This real story is based on a book written by the two younger sons, Hamed and Hessam Amiri. It chronicles the family's odyssey from Afghanistan through Russia, on to the Ukraine and Austria, and finally to France, before they ultimately arrive in Cardiff. It is a harrowing story filled with hardship and horror, but it is always motivated by hope. Unfortunately, the narrative does not feel as if it has been fully translated to the stage. It comes across as a book recounted by a series of narrators interspersed with not always effective mime sequences that are intended to simulate their flight. The cast are completely credible as the desperate family, but the play simplifies their characters and their journey in a way that is rather unsatisfying. It left us with a great many questions. Perhaps, they are answered in the book. The haunting songs of Elaha Soroor do a beautiful job of creating an atmosphere for the piece, and the spare set of Hayley Grindle cleverly simulates the family's flight experience. While we were left wondering if the story might better translate to a film, this is a play that definitely has its heart in the right place

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Jorge Lizalde.

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