by Laura Kressly
Changez and an American tourist sit in a cafe having a cup of tea at the best cafe in Lahore. As they wait for their drinks, Changez narrates the story of his life in America as an Economics student at Princeton University and an analyst at one of the top consultancies in New York City. As a young man, he had the world at his feet. His world is very different now.
In this National Youth Theatre staging, the audience is in the cafe with Changez and his story is brought to life by an ensemble of young actors. The performances are largely excellent, with Akshay Sharan leading as Changez. He is a warm and engaging performer, with a striking and grounded presence that’s unusual in a young actor. Qasim Mahmood plays his brother, and the two have a really lovely chemistry. This is brotherhood at its most positive.
Stephanie street’s adaptation stays true to the novel but doesn’t get bogged down in the vivid description that makes Mohsin Hamid’s novel so entrancing. It moves along at a good clip, and effectively captures Changez’s struggle in a post-9/11 world as an Asian man, both in how the world perceives him and his struggles with his own reactions. The ambiguous ending of the novel doesn’t quite come across so the script’s closing is rather abrupt, but the entirety still holds a lot of impact.
This production is a testament to the NYT and its professionalism. Though a training company for young people, the standards here are incredibly high and the company’s ideals are showcased well.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist runs through 26 August.
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