Review: Behind the Beautiful Forever’s

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre left nothing to the imagination with its meticulous design of an ‘Anawadi’ city. From one white artist to another, the attempt to capture the daily grind of a surviving scavenger in Mumbai, us passed from Katherine Boo’s novel to David Hare’s dialogue.

Hare cleverly saw potential to draw parallels between interwoven characters and a world of corruption and extreme poverty. The plays’ weakness for covering too many stories leaves confusion and a lack of enthusiasm for characters. Even though its main focus lies between the violent dispute between a disabled feisty prostitute and a neighbouring Muslim Family, we still see an assortment of autobiographical narratives. From an expert trash picker, whose skills bring in the family income to a couple of girls dreaming of a better future whilst talking through toilet doors. But it’s themes of corruption, committed by the most honest of people that covers the universal human condition we need to understand.

Thoughts of true representation from the top down (rather than the bottom up as seen here) could not be helped when inauthentic conversations between neighbours overshadowed the story. There was more of a care to exhibit the world in which these characters live in rather than concentrate on story and the complexity of why they make the decisions they do.

Norris’ ability to effortlessly counter layer interwoven stories, in films like Broken, did not transition in the same vigour and its lack of authentic language occasionally leaves for more to be desired. Nonetheless the play shines a light on Mumbai’s invisible poor without making it drip in stereotypical traits. Full marks for delivery but poor effort on execution.

Behind the Beautiful Forever’s played in Rep with Dara at The National Theatre until April 2014. 

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