Black comedy The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes is based on an award-winning short story by Hassan Blasim, who recently became the first Arabic writer to win the International Foreign Fiction Prize.
Exploring issues of immigration and identity, it tells the story of an Iraqi refugee arriving in London after fleeing religious persecution.
Looking to change his fortunes he marries a wealthy older woman who helps him as he fervently studies for his citizenship tests. In doing so, he discovers the complexity of what makes somebody intrinsically British.
In the process, he arrives at the crushing realisation that knowing the history of England inside out does not constitute such an identity.
The performance will be directed by Nicolas Kent; the former artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre and son of a Jewish-German refugee who arrived in Britain in 1936.
“In a way I’m trying to look after my father’s heritage,” Kent says. “We live in a very tolerant society for the most part and it’s very important that we look after people who come here who have been persecuted in their own country, and that those that come to this country recognise that they have a responsibility to their host society.”
Having been involved in a number of political productions throughout his career Kent is no stranger to sensitive subject matter, and admits immigration is a topic that has “been hugely moved up the political agenda with the recent events in the European elections”.
“I always think theatre is most powerful when it makes people think and when it makes them question and provokes them,” he says.
Sex and comedy gives the play certain entertainment value, though the ominous threat of the Carlos’s past proves inescapable. Kent hopes it is this combination that will intrigue the audience.
“It’s short, it’s very funny, and it’s also very hard hitting at the same time. It really looks at the issues as to what happens in Iraq, and looks at the issues of political asylum, and also the issues of what it is to be British. All these issues are very pertinent at the moment.”
The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes is at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL from 23 July – 16 August.