Theatre review: The Nightmare of Carlos Feuntes at Arcola Theatre

The Nightmare of Carlos Fuentes @ Arcola Theatre

The Nightmare of Carlos Fuentes @ Arcola Theatre - Credit: Archant

An intensely moving, thought-provoking and gloriously funny tale of one ­immigrant’s desperate struggle to find his own identity, The Nightmare of Carlos Fuentes takes its audience on a turbulent emotional rollercoaster, ending with crushing devastation as his story unfolds.

Based on an award-winning short story by Arabic writer Hassan Blasim, Rashid Razaq’s black comedy sees Nabil Elouahabi deliver a stunning performance as Salim, an Iraqi refugee who, having fled religious persecution, arrives in London with high hopes for a better future away from his hometown of Baghdad.

Once in London, Salim adopts the identity of “Carlos”, whom we first meet handcuffed to the bed of an English hotel room on a dirty weekend away with his partner Lydia (Caroline Langrishe), a wealthy and significantly older woman.

Perhaps the funniest scene in the play, Lydia’s libido and Carlos’ earnest interest in studying for his British citizenship test are a source of great amusement for the audience, attracting roaring laughter. After a hilarious scene involving his interrogation by an immigration caseworker, the non-linear timespan of the play reveals Salim’s dark history as well as an even bleaker future. Conveying these scenes equally as powerfully as those that are wrought with laughter, Elouahbi is both endearing and captivating in his performance.

What makes this play outstanding is the polarity of such comedy against the stark, damning reality of the past that Salim so desperately tries to escape.

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Rating: 4/5

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