Cyprus Mail

To have, and have not

By Maria Gregoriou

The Rialto theatre in Limassol continues its virtual trip to the National Theatre with the screening of performances given in London. This time around the National Theatre presents a new play by David Hare, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which is based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo.

The play, like the book, has a documentary feel to it as its origin lies in the three years Boo spent in Annawadi slum in Mumbai. During this time she recorded the lives of its residents and used these records to bring their hardships to the printed page.

The story behind the creation of the book may sound like something from the Slumdog Millionaire or a Bollywood classic, but its message runs much deeper than just game shows and dancing in colourful clothes, it talks about a corrupt world and the human struggle to be a good person, when everything around you seems to be bending in the other direction.

The scene of the book, and play, is of course India at a time when it is surging with global ambition. But beyond the luxury hotels surrounding Mumbai airport lies a makeshift slum full of people with plans of their own.

The main story centres around three different families. Because of the way in which society is braided, what one person does affects another and so on. So there is Zehrunisa (played by Meera Syal) and her son Abdul (played by Shane Zaza), who aim to recycle enough rubbish to fund a proper house. Abdul doesn’t want to deal in stolen goods and wants to be a good person, as he says “I want to be good, but the world won’t let me. Not the world I live in.”

Abdul’s role within the story line is symbolic as he acts as a torch upon society, showing the audience that poverty has a spiritual cost, but what exactly all this means will become clearer when you watch the screening.

Then we have Sunil who wants to eat until he’s as tall as Kalu the thief. Asha, who seeks to steal government anti-poverty funds to turn herself into a first-class person, and her daughter Manju who intends to become the slum’s first female graduate.

But their schemes are fragile as global recession threatens the garbage trade, and another slum-dweller is about to make an accusation that will destroy herself and shatter the neighbourhood.

Guardian critic Michael Billington said: “Without in any way sentimentalising slum life, the play leaves one deeply affected by its stress on the possibility of goodness in a world of desperate deprivation.”

The screening will last for around two hours and 40 minutes, it does contain some strong language and scenes of violence so the National Theatre rates it suitable for those over 14-years-old.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Screening of the play performed at the National Theatre. April 30. Rialto theatre, Limassol. Greek and English subtitles. €10/7. Tel: 77-777745

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