Despite a promisingly taut set-up – a tumultuous ménage à trois set amongst the violence and upheaval of social revolution – a disappointing script ensures that the only heart on show in this cross-cultural love triangle is the title.
Inspired by the epic love poem Layla and Majnun, Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh‘s Heart tells the tangled story of well-educated young Iranian woman, Leili, her English husband and her Syrian lover, as they experience love in all its complexity against the explosive backdrop of 1953’s 28 Mordad coup d’etat.
It all begins promisingly enough. Hannah Roche’s sparse set, split into the three very different living spaces of the main characters, is a strong visual metaphor for the worlds that will collide in this tale, illuminated by Louise Gregory’s tantalising and exotic lighting and populated by our three silently brooding leads.
Sadly, however, this promise is short lived. Stephen Gaythorpe‘s firmly mediocre script, packed with cringe-worthy dialogue and caricatured protagonists, halts the audience’s investment in the story right from the start.
Above all, the plot is simply lazy. A love triangle of the soap-opera variety plays out with only the slightest connection to the historical backdrop – disappointing in a show that could have shone a thought-provoking spotlight on the strained loyalties of a population racked by revolution.
Working with so little, Serena Manteghi as Leili makes a valiant effort to inject credibility into proceedings. Easily the most compelling presence on stage, she works exceptionally hard to make Leili a sympathetic character. But even this committed performance is not enough to make us believe such a sparky and well-educated woman would fall for either of her awkwardly unconvincing love-interests.
In all, Heart is a visually lush but disappointing show that promises much and simply fails to deliver anything thought-provoking or original.