Tag Archives: Jack Knowles

Sons of the Prophet

Sons of the Prophet


Hampstead Theatre

SONS OF THE PROPHET at the Hampstead Theatre


Sons of the Prophet

“The script feels very polished, and so packed with jokes and one-liners it can sometimes feel like the characters are being held at arm’s length”


The play opens from the point of view of a car crashing into a stag, quite a mean feat given that we’re watching Sons of the Prophet on Hampstead Theatre’s main stage. It gives us some inkling of the deft way director Bijan Sheibani will take this 11-year-old play by Stephen Karam and bring each line to life, directing but not smothering the actors, to deliver a pitch-perfect production.

Sons of the Prophet centres around the story of gay Lebanese-America Maronite Christian Joseph Douaihy (Irfan Shamji) who is trying to support his family in the wake of his father’s death. We meet his brother Charles (Eric Sirakian) and his uncle Bill (Raad Rawi) as Joseph lies in the hospital waiting for news from the doctor.

Karam writes the family’s dynamics perfectly. The bedside bickering is funny – this is a dark comedy after all – but it’s funny in an exhausting, claustrophobic way. Each family member repeatedly tells each other to stop talking, yet none of them do, and when Joseph puts his arm across his face the audience can feel the waves of stress emanating from him (all compounded by navigating the grim-sounding US healthcare system). Concurrently, Joseph must manage his Uncle Bill’s devout Marronite faith and optimism – “I’m saying be grateful, at least you have your health” – “I don’t have my health, we’re in a doctor’s office because my knees are radiating hot pain!”

Supporting characters propel the story forward as it hurtles towards an end with no resolutions, because that’s what happens to families like Douaihy’s in rural Pennsylvania. It transpires his dad’s car accident was caused by a star of Cedar Crest High School’s football team putting a fake stag in the middle of the road to see who would swerve to avoid it – we meet Vin (Raphael Akuwudike) as he attempts to apologise to the family with a terrible essay. The supporting cast, played by Holly Atkins and Sue Wallace (Physicians Assistant, Ticket Agent etc) are sublime, and both deserve a spin-off show for their extraordinarily well-brought-to-life characters. I would like to watch each of them on stage, for longer.

At points the stage feels like a 21st century Fawlty Towers, as Joseph tries to manage a revolving door of disastrous encounters and people (his horrific boss Gloria, played by Juliet Cowan, who makes everything about her), and news reporter/brief love interest Timothy (Jack Holden) who is desperate to break into the TV bigtime by exploiting the Douaihy family tragedy.

The script feels very polished, and so packed with jokes and one-liners it can sometimes feel like the characters are being held at arm’s length. The actors, with the exception of a few wavering American accents, fly with the lines. Any bumps lie entirely with the script, which feels extremely American, and an interesting choice for Hampstead Theatre in London 2022 (prompting the usual questions, why here, why now?) Perhaps it’s because it’s an omen of what life could become in Britain in the next 10 years under the wrong government hell-bent on privatising the NHS: a stark warning of the extra layers of stress and financial worry that will burden almost every family.

The set design (Samal Blak) is stark and unfussy, with a beautiful use of levels, which helps to tie in all the disparate family elements. Aline David’s movement direction introduces a sense of calmness at times during the show when it’s most necessary.

The play deals with the true sense of what it means to be human, as it revolves around the teachings of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet (On Pain, On Passion, On Work, etc). Explicit instructions in the playtext recommend that each character at heart is human – “Gloria may say ridiculous things, but her mannerisms aren’t ridiculous.” Karam calls for the play to be staged in ‘explicitly human spaces’.

The calmness of the final scene, as Joseph meets his kindergarten teacher while he does physiotherapy, is most poignant, and provides respite from his life’s chaos. He confides in her that the last time he was happy was when he was aged four, and although the line is delivered as a joke, there’s a pause from the audience before we laugh, as we all reflect en-masse that life is hard, and at times it can feel like a rolling wheel of disasters.

The play is tight, well-written, superbly acted, and an easy 105 minutes (no interval!) watch. It lifts rather than shatters, and does it with serious humour and a whack of seriously good acting.



Reviewed on 12th December 2022

by Eleanor Ross

Photography by Marc Brenner



Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022
Blackout Songs | ★★★★ | November 2022


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The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe


Gillian Lynne Theatre


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Gillian Lynne Theatre

Reviewed – 28th July 2022



“Samantha Womack’s ice-queen witch stops short of caricature to give a cool, sassy and sexy performance”


The temptation to litter this review of “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” with spoilers is almost impossible to resist. Except that the protectors of the ‘Magic Circle’ would soon come knocking. Needless to say, Michael Fentiman’s stage adaptation is, in plain language, truly magical. Literally, emotionally and visually. Escapism personified.

We enter a war-torn Britain circa 1940. A lone pianist is gradually joined by the full ensemble while the melancholic strains of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ crescendo in beautiful harmony. This in turn gives way to the blitz and the exodus of London’s child population. Among the throng are Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie, who are whisked away to Aberdeen and the forbidding, country house of the eccentric Professor Kirke. You know the rest – besides which, the title says it all.

Fentiman’s unique stamp is visible from the outset, with the cast comprising actor-musicians that conjure echoes of his ‘Amélie the Musical’; with soaring notes of Cirque du Soleil and knowing winks to Emma Rice. Throw in a touch of ‘Wonderville’ and the picture is complete. Tom Paris’ outstanding costume, with Toby Olié’s puppetry, are not just the icing on the cake, but crucial ingredients; as are Jack Knowles lighting, and the shattering soundscape provided by Ian Dickinson and Gareth Tucker. Although it cannot quite be described as a musical, Benji Bower’s and Barnaby Race’s score runs through it, frequently bursting into full blown choral numbers, around which choreographer Shannelle ‘Tali’ Fergus has staged some beautifully poetic, stylised and devilishly stylish movement.

As always, it is tempting to over-read the allegories. But the story does resonate particularly vibrantly now in its celebration of the coming together of individuals to overcome the darkest of winters. Narnia has been frozen for the past hundred years by the White Witch (Samantha Womack). Delainey Hayles’ Lucy is the first to stumble through the wardrobe into the forbidding kingdom, before persuading her siblings (Ammar Duffus, Shaka Kalokoh and Robyn Sinclair) to ‘believe’ in Narnia and join her. Can they overcome the usurper witch and restore the rightful ruler – the Christlike Aslan?

Well, we all know the answer. But it is the journey that leads us there that is the crux. Jez Unwin’s Mr Tumnus is the first to dole out lessons in betrayal and forgiveness, while the glorious pair – Julian Hoult as Mr Beaver and Christina Tedders as Mrs Beaver – dish out their unique blend of comic relief. Chris Jared, disconnected from the imposing puppet, is the impressive and magisterial voice of the lion, Aslan, while Samantha Womack’s ice-queen witch stops short of caricature to give a cool, sassy and sexy performance. The ensemble stops short of upstaging the protagonists, instead surrounding, infiltrating and complimenting the action with perfect precision and timing.

The story is timeless, a quality reflected in the fantastical nature of this staging. It transcends the family show boundaries often imposed on this genre of theatre. There has to be a sufficient amount of darkness for light to banish it. We’ve been through some pretty shadowy times of late, but it serves to magnify the hope and redemption we grasp afterwards. “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” is a show that exemplifies that. And it throws in all the eccentricities of life too.

Escape through the wardrobe and watch with an open mind. That way you will let all the wonder in.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Gillian Lynne Theatre until 8th January 2023


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cinderella | ★★★★★ | August 2021


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