Theatre Review - Baghdaddy by Jasmine Naziha Jones

 is a remarkably assured writing debut from Jasmine Naziha Jones and one of the most original plays I’ve seen all year. This is a powerful exploration of inter-generational trauma, boldly staged by Milli Bhatia.

Naziha Jones has the ability to make her audience cry one minute and laugh the next.

Eight-year-old Darlee (Naziha Jones) lives with her Iraqi father (Philip Arditti) who arrived in Britain to study when he was 17.

As a student, he endures the casual prejudice of strangers and racist brutality of thugs. His only friend, Danyal from Saudi Arabia (also played by Naziha Jones), has a better grasp of English and the bravado he lacks.

Darlee’s dad watches his country’s conflicts from afar. These include the Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 the United States-led invasion which resulted in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

A brightly clad, ghostly chorus of three (Souad Faress, Hayat Kamille and Noof Ousellam) act like omnipotent puppeteers, controlling the narrative, stopping and starting the action and often bickering amongst themselves as to what happens next.

It’s a brilliant way to suggest the insidious nature of trauma, how it is passed down through families, despite their best attempts to protect themselves and others.

Bhatia’s production assails the senses. I loved the detail in Moi Tran’s elegant design: McDonald’s golden arches echo the ancient porticos  of Iraq. An empty portrait of Saddam Hussein hangs in Darlee’s aunt’s Iraqi home.

Throughout, Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lights buzz and zap and various explosions test our nerves.

Reverberating voices and arresting imagery contribute to the sense of a nightmarish world – a yawn transforms into a silent scream and Darlee has her heart dug out of her. It all builds to the two heart-breaking monologues at the end from father and daughter.

Darlee, now an adult, rails against sanctions and how they hold ordinary people to ransom, her face spattered with blood.

Unforgettable theatre.

Until December 17

Originally published by Westminster Extra