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Nichola McAuliffe is surprisingly coy about the identity of the protagonists in her well-intentioned docu-drama.

Even the programme doesn’t make clear the extent of her involvement in the campaign to free a British man held on death row in Pakistan.

We’re well into her short play before it becomes clear that the Daily Mirror journalist pursuing a story is, in fact, her real life husband Don MacKay and that she’s actually playing herself, his actress wife, on stage.

In 1988, then then 18 year old Mirza Tahir Hussain was accused of killing a taxi driver shortly after he arrived in Pakistan on a visit.

His plea of self-defence was over-ruled and, by the time MacKay was sent to interview him, he had spent 18 long years in jail and, not for the first time, the date for his execution under Sharia law had been set.

McAuliffe paints a bleak picture of a young man growing old in prison, contrasting his polite, accepting demeanour with scenes back home between her and her husband.

A loving, bickering couple (neither of whose careers are where they want them to be) their day to day concerns are thrown into
trivial relief compared with their frustration with tabloid preference for celebrity stories and the reality of Hussain’s situation in Rawalpindi.

With its mix of comic scenes and serious concerns, the changes in tone occasionally jar, but their campaign for justice – which even involved Prince Charles – makes for involving theatre, and McAuliffe (who also plays a range of minor characters), David Rintoul (as a determined MacKay posing as an English teacher from Leeds to gain access)  and Kulvinder Ghir’s condemned Hussain (his deliberate movements a result of half a life spent behind bars) act out this now resolved drama with conviction.

-Louise Kingsley


Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JB
020 7907 7092
Tube: Leicester Square
Until November 26
£20-£37.50
artstheatrewestend.com


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A British Subject, Arts Theatre
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