Engrossing play about East and West,
Islam and Capitalism, hostage takers and hostage
“Bulls make money, Bears make money, Pigs get slaughtered.”
Ayad Akhtar writes interesting plays. He is an American of Pakistani heritage and his play Disgraced won the Pulitzer prize for Drama in 2013. Disgraced was about the interface of America and the Muslim world, again the broad theme of his play the Invisible Hand.
The Kiln produced The Invisible Hand to high acclaim in 2016 and what better play as theatre comes back to life. This thrilling play has real issues to ponder and moments of ironic comedy.
The situation for Nick Bright (Daniel Lapaine) is pretty desperate. He is a banker who when riding in his boss’s car was kidnapped by an Islamist extremist group. He is being held as a prisoner manacled in a breeze block cell and 10 million dollars is demanded as his ransom. We hear about the beheading fate of a Western journalist and the graphic video they released.
These violent threats come from a Cockney accented Bashir (Scott Karim) born in Hounslow of Pakistani origin, whose brutality towards Nick’s jailer Dar (Sid Sagar) shocks us, and makes us dread what he might do to Nick Bright. The light note comes when Bashir tells us that he had three UCAS offers and of course the American doesn’t know that these are offers of a place at university.
Bashir and Nick will bond over a joint venture. As the most Nick says he can raise is 3 million, and the hostage takers want ten, as a banker and dealer, Nick offers to make money for the group using the futures markets. He needs a computer and help. Bashir is his ardent pupil.
Imam Saleem (Tony Jayawardena) visits Nick in his cell and explains that he is on an anti-corruption mission to expose government officials.
We get a lesson in the money markets, “the market is shaped by everyone’s self-interest, moving it along.” Nick explains that advance and exclusive information is the key.
I don’t want to spoil this exciting play for anyone so I can’t reveal any more twists and turns to this unexpected plot. What is fascinating is Bashir’s condemnation of people like his father for abandoning Pakistan to live in Britain and so depriving Pakistan of future businessmen and entrepreneurs. It is about the British empire taking human resources.
The performances from all four are so convincing that we are swept along by the narrative. Indhu Rubasingham directs with great skill and Lizzie Clachan’s set is a grim prison brought to hope by the growing attachment between Nick and Bashir. In between scenes is a blinding light with neon strips outlining the front of the stage which makes you blink.
I cannot recommend this play highly enough and award it TheatreVibe’s very rare, as rare as a standing ovation used to be in London, accolade of five stars!
The Invisible Hand
Written by Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Indhu Rubasingham
Director: Indhu Rubasingham
Designer: Lizzie Clachan
Lighting Designer: Oliver Fenwick
Sound Designer: Alexander Caplen
Fight Director: RC-Annie Ltd
Running Time: Two hours with an interval
Booking to 31st July 2021
269 Kilburn High Road
London NW6 7JR
Phone: 020 7328 1000
Website: Kiln Theatre
Rail/Tube: Brondesbury, Kilburn
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the Kiln on 7th July 2021