REVIEW: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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Broadcast live to Diss Corn Hall from the National Theatre

Beautiful Forever is a tiling company, dividing a toxic shanty-town from an the international airport – a metaphor for Katherine Boo’s study of Mumbai slums, brought to life by David Hare’s adaptation for stage.

This is a dramatic exposition of the despair (but also the hope) of the resilient, defiant people that make a living collecting rubbish discarded by rich folk that live on the other side of the wall.

Centred on a family headed up a fractious matriarch, played by Merra Syal, this is an ensemble performance, with Shane Zaza particularly strong as her son. Anjana Vasan serves as the flip side of Stephanie Street’s pragmatic Asha, leaving room for humour from Pal Aron as a self-obsessed teacher, and Thusitha Jayasundera, as a self-serving judge.

Without sentimentalising slum life, or denying the lives barely lived, the play leaves the possibility of goodness in the face of deprivation.

By avoiding lazy stereotypes and sloppy presumption, it instead offers up a challenging, thought provoking essay on poverty.

DAVID VASS