A Thousand Splendid Suns – authentic drama from war torn Afghanistan
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a heartbreaking story of love, loss and endurance. Set against the dramatic backdrop of a war torn Afghanistan, a strong cast draw you inside a turbulent Kabul. This is a first class adaptation by Ursula Rani Sarma, from the best selling book by Khaled Hosseini.
The Taliban have invaded the country and women are the ones who bear the brunt of this brutal occupation. Women are unable to leave the house without a man, they cannot work, dance, sing or go to school. They must not show their faces in public or they risk serious punishment.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – a true tale of survival
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a powerful tale of two women surviving through the hardships of war. These trials are compounded by the iron grip of a relentlessly patriarchal society. When Laila’s parents are killed by a Taliban bomb, she is rescued from the rubble by her her older neighbour Rasheed. Rasheed claims he wants to protect her and does this by taking her as his second wife. This is not a popular decision with his first, much older wife Mariam, who is childless. At first she sees Laila only as a threat.
The story of these two women and their eventual friendship and bond against their abusive husband is central to the piece. Sujaya Dasgupta as Laila and Amina Zia as Mariam carry the weight of the story and draw us into their hardships and hopes with two strong performances. Women in Afghanistan have no choice but to develop extraordinary emotional and physical resilience. In the play they are urged to endure -‘Tahamul’ in order to simply survive.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – it’s a man’s world
Pal Aron as Rasheed, the husband, is very good indeed. He is convincing in his argument as to why he wants to ‘protect’ the women, and we can see clearly the rationalisation of his own heavy handed behaviour. In a way he is as much a victim of his own society and culture as the women are. When his shop and his livelihood is destroyed, he becomes fearful and Mariam says she feels sorry for him as ‘he’s never been afraid before.’ Women are seen as possessions to be controlled and disciplined when they misbehave. This view weakens everyone, creating a continuous domestic conflict which reflects the military one.
As so often in these stories of tragedy and conflict, hope for the future is represented by the next generation. Laila’s children – in particular Aziza, the baby she was carrying when the first bomb hit. Aziza grows up during the course of the play.
The original music is atmospheric and adds to the texture and context of the production. The set portrays the stark orange rock of the barren mountains around Kabul. Splashes of colour are provided by the vibrant costumes and rugs, blankets and shawls of the house and the female characters. Kabul is portrayed as a once vibrant modern city, being bombed back into the dark ages. Civilisation has flourished here, but this comes to be seen as a threat, and is destroyed once more by its enemies.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – hope springs through suffering
The stories of human suffering told in A Thousand Splendid Suns are universal. The audience empathises with the women who are subjected to such oppression and cruelty, both physical and mental. The burka they are forced to wear, makes the women invisible and faceless. This excellent adaptation removes their veil of anonymity, and tells the real story of how people survive terrible experiences and how they never lose hope.
Be prepared to be totally absorbed and moved by this powerful production at Northern Stage until 15th June.