Good, starring David Tennant, needs more money spent on it. The former Doctor Who stars as John, a literary scholar living in Germany in 1933, whose cozy life is disrupted by troublesome women. His mother is a hopeless case who dies in the hospital and his wife is a manic-depressive who cannot take care of their children. The two women speak with Scottish accents. John has an affair with a third Scotswoman who is studying Goethe at her university.
Oddly, all three women – mom, wife and girlfriend – are played by the same actress. Couldn’t the producers shell out for proper casting? They certainly didn’t spend more than a five on the set, which looks like an abandoned cardboard bomb shelter. The story follows John’s gradual drift towards Nazism which he half-heartedly embraces in hopes of advancing his career. His Jewish friend Maurice begs him to help him escape Germany before he is taken to a death camp, but John seems unfazed by his friend’s fate.
The story would have been more powerful if John’s mistress had been Maurice’s sister, but the playwright, CP Taylor, is a dry, ruminative type who avoids conflict or emotional depth. The show feels like a commentary on a play rather than a play in itself. Other budget problems spoil the second half when John goes to meet Adolf Eichmann who is posing as the same guy who plays Maurice. Spare a thought for poor Elliot Levey, an excellent technical actor, who now has the name “Adolf Eichmann” listed on his CV.
It’s clear that the producers simply lacked the funds to stage this play professionally. Or did they? In the final moments, seven extras appear dressed as Jewish captives and Nazi guards. So there was a real cast hidden behind the scenes all along but they weren’t allowed to participate. That’s no way to treat actors. They were born to perform, dazzle, show, bask in the limelight. It’s cruel to make them spend two hours a night sitting in the locker room begging their agents to find them decent work. My son, a huge Doctor Who fan, was delighted to see David Tennant on stage but found the script disappointing. “I didn’t expect a play about Scottish Nazis,” he said.
The boy with two hearts opens in Kabul where Fariba, married and mother of three, gives a speech denouncing the Taliban. They order him to leave Afghanistan or face execution. She frees herself. That in itself seems odd. The death threat could easily have been lifted with the payment of a bribe, but Fariba prefers to sell her house and leave with her husband and sons in search of a better life. Their first stop is Moscow, where they spend six months living on funds provided by friends in Kabul. What a great getaway for the family. Then they head to Germany, via Austria, and finally they reach Normandy, where they break into a truck and enter Britain illegally. Free healthcare is their aim: a family member has a weak heart and the NHS will provide free treatment. That’s why they crossed the Channel rather than ending their journey in Germany or France.
There’s very little drama or heartache in this laborious thread because the family supports each other emotionally and the issues they face are minor. At one point, they all squeeze into a car that feels a bit cramped. The back of their truck is pretty stuffy too. In Germany, they are forced to work assembling pizza boxes, which is boring, but not a life-changing crisis. During their odyssey, they discover the fate of less fortunate travellers. Money and valuables are taken by armed robbers. Females, especially little girls, are stolen from their guardians as a “tax”. One wonders what happens to these sex slaves. We don’t find out because the story wants to celebrate successful migrants who arrive here with little hassle.
Several uncomfortable truths are concealed by this piece. Third World people will never overthrow dictators as long as there is an easy way out to the West. Policies that promote migration have created an intercontinental slave route, or a trans-Asian rape trek, or whatever you want to call it, that governments and charities know all about. They use the word “compassion” to describe their encouragement of sex traffickers, cutthroats and child abductors. This play is set in 2000, when it was still worth coming to the UK to avoid the Islamist despots. But if Fariba had left Afghanistan last month and moved to Tower Hamlets (where this column is being written), she would have found thousands of Muslim women walking the streets in the long body dress against which she protested in Kabul. She might as well have stayed put.