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Serena Manteghi as Elham, Nadia Albina as Marjan and Nojan Khaki as Omid. (Photo: Richard Davenport)

REVIEW: English, Kiln (2024)

Why do we learn another language?

“We were speaking English.  I think it is one of the greatest things two people can do together.” 


Serena Manteghi as Elham, Nadia Albina as Marjan and Nojan Khaki as Omid. (Photo: Richard Davenport)

It is a refreshing subject to approach a class of Iranians in preparation for a test in English as a Foreign Language and to explore their motivation to learn English.  There is some cracking good comedy in Iranian-American Sanaz Toossi’s Pulitzer Prize winning play but underneath there is also sadness. 

The teacher Marjan (Nadia Albina) has lived in Manchester for ten years and adores the language English but has chosen to return to Iran.  Persian is known as Farsi in Iran and all the class speak Farsi.  For our benefit, when they are speaking English they are mostly hesitant and accented but when they switch to Farsi we hear their perfect English.  I remember this being done years ago but I can’t remember which play. Marjan’s rule is that only English should be spoken in class and eventually she sets up a penalty system for contraventions. 

Elham (Serena Manteghi) is a doctor who needs a 94 in English to study a medical specialism, gastroenterology  in Australia.  She has failed the test many times and hates having to learn English.  Instead she celebrates her own language, customs and music.  When they are carrying out a vocabulary exercise, they throw a football and the person catching it has to provide an English word in the given category before he can throw the ball to someone else.  Omid (Nojan Khazai) tends to narrowly beat Elham every time and she is very competitive. 

Nojan Khazai as Omid, Lanna Joffrey as Roya and Sara Hazemi as Golf (Photo: Richard Davenport)

The youngest class member is Goli (Sara Hazemi).  She wants to go abroad to America and that is why she is learning English.  The oldest member of the class is Roya (Lanna Joffrey) who is learning English at her son’s request in order to go to live with his family in what she calls “the Canada”.  He wants his daughter to be completely assimilated as an English (not French?) speaking Canadian and requires his mother to speak better English.  This is Roya’s sadness and although we laugh at the messages to her son, “I know all the numbers now.  Forty-three. Five hundred and thirty eight.  And. Seven,”  from her son’s replies, Roya will pick up the difference between “live” and “visit”.

The theory Sanaz Toossi is expounding is that we are different people when we speak another language but I am not convinced.  I speak quite good French but it doesn’t make me feel any different, but still it is a dramatic device.  The set is a glass walled classroom with a white board for writing ENGLISH ONLY on and underlining it. 

Omid and Marjan get close, both with a foot in either language and speaking very good English but there is more to become apparent.  The play only focuses on linguistic differences and it is hard not to think about the political, educational and cultural: the role of women in current day Iran.

Production Notes


Written by  Sanaz Toossi

Directed by Diyan Zora



Lanna Joffrey

Nadia Albina

Serena Manteghi

Sara Hazemi

Nojan Khazai


Director: Diyan Zora

Designer: Anisha Fields

Movement: Maria Tarokh

Lighting Designer: Elliot Griggs

Sound Designer: George Dennis

A joint RSC Kiln Production


Running Time: One hour 25 minutes without an interval

Booking to 6th July 2024


The Kiln

 269 Kilburn High Road


 London NW6 7JR

Phone: 020 7328 1000

Website: Kiln Theatre

Rail/Tube: Brondesbury,


Reviewed by

Lizzie Loveridge

at the Kiln Theatre

on 25th June 2024

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