Art and politics always mix. Don’t believe me? Catch Henry Naylor’s breathtaking new addition to his Arabian Nightmares series, Borders.
Sebastian (Graham O’Mara) is a fledgling war photographer low on funds but high on a sense of adventure in the Middle East. He meets an experienced journalist who will change his life as the war correspondent needs a photographer to join him for an interview of a little-known war lord named Osama Bin Laden.
Meanwhile, a young Syrian girl (Avital Lvova), who is a talented artist, just lost her father as the country plunges into a civil war that will lead to one of the worst humanitarian disasters of recent memory. She meets a boy who encourages the spirited young woman to resist via anti-Assad (Syrian president) street art. She is Nameless.
The Bin Laden photos make Sebastian famous after September 11 turns the Al Qaeda leader into the most notorious man of the new millennium. Instead of using his new found fame for good, to shine a light on the world’s crises, Sebastian becomes a hollow celebrity photographer who hangs with the celebs he shoots and justifies his existence with sarcasm, cynicism and party starters.
The work of Nameless is famous. But she is not. The work speaks for itself, no personal brand necessary. Following her father’s advice of “draw your own lines” she never relents to trace over someone else’s handiwork. After becoming pregnant, Nameless needs to look after someone else and flees her country for a new chance with a new life. Meanwhile, Sebastian must make a decision: does he continue to live a vacant life of excess or will he make a difference and become a real photojournalist?
Borders is another powerful work by Naylor, as the playwright’s latest Arabian Nightmares production (his fourth) finds a way to magnify the almost-forgotten Syrian crisis with an action-packed and profound hour of drama driven by two incredible performances. Lvova delivers another physical tour de force after last year’s Angel (also written by Naylor) and her intensity is balanced by the humour provided by O’Hara’s Sebastian. His performance brings much-needed laughs and cynicism to a production that could have strayed into sanctimonious territory without his cutting sarcasm.
Borders is an important work. A devastating hour of theatre that shows what the power of art can achieve.
Borders by Henry Naylor continues at Holden Street Theatres’ The Studio until Sunday, March 18.