Hadda and Hassan Lekliches!, Traverse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
National Theatre of Scotland in association with Oran Mor
Ben Harrison (director), David Boyd (composer and musician), Patrick McGurn (designer)
Juliana Yazbeck (Hadda and other parts), El Razzougi (Hassan and other parts)
Running time

A memory from les evenements (the term is used advisedly) in Tahrir Square. A young woman, smartly dressed, wearing a hijab and Palestinian keffiyeh grins as she waves a victory sign to the camera. An icon for much more than the Egyptian element of the Arab Spring, and in both dress and gesture,  symbolic of a rising generation skilfully negotiating both modernity and a reviving Islamic consciousness.

The current season of A Play, a Pie and a Pint hosted by the Traverse has featured plays from countries and writers affected by recent events in the Muslim world, of which Hadda and Hassan Lekliches! is the final production.   

Jaouad Essedounai’s script skilfully and wittily reflects much of the discontent and downright anger from which demonstrations and mass action spring. Hadda (Juliana Yazbeck) ironically suggests her story is a cliché. Which in a sense it is, but only insofar as it seeks to represent the exploitation and abuse experienced by thousands.

Both Hadda and her brother Hassan (El Razzougui) experience sexual and other forms of abuse from childhood on, and their experiences give the narrative its roller-coaster spine, picaresquely illustrating the dynamics behind recent and current events.  

The rapid pace at which the tales of Hadda and Hassan develop, however, ultimately feels too great for the time and place at which it began and in which the production is physically located. The one hour’s traffic of A Play, a Pie and a Pint constrains Essedounai’s ambitions for what is both domestic and epic.

Both Juliana Yazbeck and El Razzougui offer stand-out performances of real integrity, and Ben Harrison’s direction is never less than tight and effective, but as the jump-cutting of story-lines gains a pace which toward the play’s end feels both confusing and counter-productive, even their combined efforts  aren’t enough to successfully contain Essedounai’s efforts in the pint pot required here.

Show times

Ends 9 June