Cambridgeshire born writer and award-winning film-maker Rick Limentani has brought his new play Freedom to Cambridge’s Mumford Theatre.
Having completed a four-week run at the Arcola Theatre in London earlier this year, the production is now touring with the same cast to Guildford, Crawley and the Midlands.
Freedom explores the many forms of pressure which restrict our freedom, and the danger of compromising the freedom of others inherent in the pursuit of our own.
Freedom is set between London and Tajikistan, and in innovative style, the stage is split between the two locations. The play features a cast of three, and for the play’s entirety, there are two characters in one setting, and one in the other. The audience’s left-hand, and symbolically Western half of the stage features a British fried-chicken outlet; the right-hand, Eastern half of the stage represents a Tajik opium farm. These two settings are no indication of the play’s true theme; the piece has far more scope than a simple polemic on the harmful imports of opiates and fast-food.
In order to protect his farmlands and family from threatening outsiders, Tajik farmer Benham is forced to tell a daring lie. He hatches an intricate scheme to fake proof of his lie, which involves sending his son, Fariad, to England. Fariad is charged with the responsibility of courting a Western woman to use as a status symbol back in Tajikistan. Fariad develops a relationship with Jennifer, his colleague at ‘Freedom Fried Chicken.’ Jennifer is a vulnerable, slightly needy character, and Fariad’s feelings for her threaten to interfere with Benham’s plan. All three characters are compelled to choose between their own freedom, and that of others, with inevitably tragic consequences.
With only three cast members involved, each is required to deliver a strong performance, and all succeed. Rian Perle ably plays the challenging role of Benham, the closest the piece has to a villain; Benham’s dark humour and understandable motives command sufficient empathy for him to be considered in the vein of tragic hero. Indranyl Singharay plays Fariad with engaging warmth; his character is the unwilling executioner of his father’s plan, whose own freedom is compromised as he seeks to compromise that of Jennifer. Jennifer is played by internationally-renowned Rebeca Cobos, who also serves as producer and script editor for Freedom. Rebeca’s portrayal of the innocent, but flawed Jennifer, was natural and relaxed.
With its small cast, and uncomplicated plot, Freedom is a remarkably hard-hitting play. The very human characters and witty dialogue are compelling from the outset, and the plot moves at a rate fast enough to remain entertaining, and slow enough to heighten suspense. Wonderful incidental music by Iván Capillas helps provide atmosphere without detracting from the onstage action.
Limentani, who also directs, says: "I love the idea that freedom isn’t a yes or no choice, it’s a sliding scale. No-one feels completely free, we all impinge on each other’s lives.” In this intelligent and highly compassionate production, Limentani demonstrates several forms of pressure that compel the affable characters to act against their best wishes. The play, entertaining throughout, presents the viewer with a simple, yet thought-provoking metaphor; that Freedom is a fried-chicken outlet where one’s meal has a cost, and that one shouldn’t indulge one’s appetite to the point of gluttony.
Localsecrets**** "The very human characters and witty dialogue are compelling from the outset"