Park Theatre, London – until 20 April 2019
I wanted to love Cry Havoc but it didn’t quite do it for me. Set in present-day Cairo, Egyptian Mohammed is being comforted by his lover Nicholas, a British academic after being imprisoned and tortured by the authorities for his sexuality. Their relationship is of course a secret but as Mohammed’s family and community turn against him, Nick is determined to ‘save’ him.
But it isn’t just as simple as upping sticks to the UK and playwright Tom Coash attempts to portray the worlds of difference between gay life in these two spheres. Nick is the embodiment of Western liberalism and Mohammed is the firebrand revolutionary who wants to provoke change from within. With such a cultural divide between them, does love stand a chance?
It’s a powerfully emotive subject and with James El-Sharawy and Marc Antolin, Pamela Schermann’s production finds a compelling pair of lead performances. But the writing really doesn’t come up to scratch to give them the depth of character to make them credible as people with actual human emotion. Too often they’re lumbered with positions to argue rather than passions to feel.
Which ultimately detracts from the production – our hearts ought to ache for these two men but there is just not enough here. There’s a strong play to be written about colonial attitudes and white saviours through an LGBT+ prism but Coash needs a couple more passes at this before Cry Havoc is that play.