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Dara

Published 28 January 2015

What’s it all about?

A gripping cocktail of Shakespearean history play, Game Of Thrones-style epic legend, fairytale and modern theatremaking, Dara is a tale of warring brothers.

First performed by Pakistan’s Ajoka Theatre, it tells the compelling story of the bitter 17th century battle for power over the South Asian Mughal Empire fought by the liberal Sufi poet Dara and his strict fundamentalist brother Aurangzeb.

Leaping through time and space like an indecisive Gallifreyan – I’m sure I heard the TARDIS somewhere in the sound design – it charges towards its conclusion while exploring the events that shaped the sibling’s characters.

Who’s in it?

The ever reliable Zubin Varla is back at the National, giving a stirring central performance and bringing earnestness, honesty, passion and unwavering conviction to Dara.

Sargon Yelda takes on Aurangzeb, a role that could easily become a panto villain. Here, rather than moustache-twirling rogue, the younger brother becomes a confused boy, desperately, relentlessly and viciously lashing out in an attempt to control the world. Credit goes to Yelda, writer Shahid Nadeem, adapter Tanya Ronder and director Nadia Fall.

What should I look out for?

The courtroom scene that concludes the first half, which features Prasanna Puwanarajah as a wily lawyer interrogating Dara about his Muslim beliefs or lack thereof in the eyes of his brother. It finds the title character at his most eloquent and Varla at his most passionate. Most importantly of all it perfectly lays bare the arguments for differing interpretations of religious texts, from fundamental acceptance to understanding the circumstances of their writing. I’m not sure there has ever been a more important time to put a scene of this clarity on the stage.

In a nutshell?

A bewitching tale of Indian history with a scintillating first half finale as good as any Shakespearean stand-off.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@rezkempton Congrats to everyone involved in #ntDara @NationalTheatre Brilliant performances & thought provoking piece. So relevant for current climate

@ShaziaAshraf I forced myself not to applaud during Dara’s trial monologue. Blown away! #ntDara @NationalTheatre

Will I like it?

Dara is one of those shows that has a little bit for everyone. At its heart is a rompingly good tale, a classic bro on bro fight for a crown. Throw in a bit of history – I’ll admit this is a time and place of which my knowledge is sadly lacking – two sensational central performances and a thick seam of religious interpretation and understanding, and you’ve got a cracking production.

Dara is playing at the National Theatre Lyttelton until 4 April. You can book tickets through us here, or for performances to 13 February book through our ticket promotion Get Into London Theatre.

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