Photo: Jorge Lizard

The Boy With Two Hearts – based on the book by Hamed and Hessam Amiri – has just opened at the National Theatre, having transferred from the Wales Millennium Centre. It’s a true story, based on the brothers’ real-life experiences as they fled Afghanistan as children. After their mother speaks out publicly against the Taliban, demanding equal rights for women, a death warrant is issued against her; to make their situation even more desperate, their brother Hussein has a heart condition and will require specialist care. As a family they decide their best option to escape the Taliban, and seek the required medical intervention, is to seek refuge in the UK.

It’s a gripping tale – over the course of two hours we see their journey, including every small step forward and every major setback; we witness the awful living conditions, the reality of squeezing a family into the boot of a car, or a hidden compartment in a lorry or a shipping container; we see the reality of living in a camp in Calais, and the desperation of those wishing to escape. We’re constantly surrounded by a barrage of negative news and it’s all too easy to think as refugees as numbers – it’s powerful and incredibly moving to see a story which humanises those fleeing conflict and tells their stories in their words.

There’s a real warmth, charm and humour to proceedings, which is welcome but unexpected. We see the family overcoming adversity, the continuous muggings and extortion, the mistreatment by traffickers – with the hope that one day things can and will be better for them. There’s a sense of optimism pervading this production which could have otherwise been rather bleak. The story is told very much from the perspective of the children, so there are some quite charming quips about football or their mother’s cooking or the terrible dad jokes.

We were thoroughly impressed with The Boy With Two Hearts. It offers a poignant insight into the lives of refugees, telling their stories from their perspectives, which is a point of view rarely represented on major stages. We found it to be illuminating and would suggest taking this opportunity to find out more about the reality for those who’ve had to flee Afghanistan under the Taliban.

GAY TIMES gives The Boy With Two Hearts – 4/5

More information can be found here.