(Review published on whatsonstage.com 31/1/12)
In contemporary rural Tajikistan Benham, an opium farmer, confesses to his son Fariad that their family is in great danger. Their corrupt buyers have ruined a fellow farmer by taking all his profits, and in a few months’ time, when these powerful men return, they might do the same to Benham.
The latter’s solution is for Fariad to win a scholarship to study in Britain, where he must find a western woman to bring back home: this will supposedly convince the crooks that Benham’s family have status and so prevent disaster. In England Fariad falls in love with Jennifer (Rebeca Cobos) his Spanish work-mate at a fast-food concession, who is then unwittingly drawn into the far-fetched plan.
The programme’s description of this play as ‘A powerful story of seduction, betrayal and avarice’ implies a far more dramatic piece than Freedom presents. The action passes back and forth between the farm and the burger bar (never seen patronised) with a lacklustre pace, as the story becomes increasingly implausible.
The initial sympathy we feel for father and son dissipates completely well before the end, and Jennifer never inspires any, underwritten and poorly acted as she is. There is far too much reliance on phone-calls for the storytelling, and Fariad’s assimilation into British culture via some atrocious guitar-playing is risible. However, Indranyl Singharay as Fariad and Rian Perle as Benham are both at least creditable.
The script by Rick Limentani, who also directs, should never have got this far without intervention from The Arcola. The theatre has an excellent reputation which is imperilled by clumsy plays like Freedom.
– Alison Goldie