“A story of blockbuster proportions”
Every now and then you hear a story and wish the whole world could hear it too. The Big Lie is one of those. Based on the real life of an Iraqi-Kurdish refugee (and a survivor of Saddam Hussein’s genocide) who earns her place as an associate at one of Sweden’s top law firms, it tells of overcoming racism and several other barriers to achieve the unthinkable.
And the remarkable woman sharing her semi-autobiographical tale is the eminently watchable Shaniaz Hama Ali. Now an actor (though formerly the lawyer at the heart of the story), she beams with honesty, vulnerability and likeability throughout the performance, impressing with her grasp of comedy and subtlety in a language which isn’t her mother tongue.
Beginning with a snippet of a conversation which hints at the outcome of the tale, Hama Ali takes us back to where it all began, and her journey to the peak of her legal career. There’s a playful as aspect to the reflections on her childhood and the innocence of it, though a darkness develops as the parents of her new friends in her adopted country begin to stir up racism against her family.
There’s not long to dwell though, as Hama Ali deftly moves on to the positive aspects of her blossoming career in law, and the cases she gets to work on. At the climax is the offer from above to work on a case all her colleagues want a piece of, but which forces her to question her identity and moral compass – whether to assist a company in selling chemical weaponry to the Middle East, and potentially facilitate the kind of genocide she and her family escaped from just a few years before. This section in particular oozes with tension in consideration of the debate, and Hama Ali’s frankness here accentuates the humanity at the heart of the piece.
There’s a pleasing resolution that ties into the opening lines of the piece, but which could be made more obvious and epic to give a real wow-factor ending, and overall the story aches with more detail bursting to be told. It’s a shame this show is only 50 minutes long!
As a theatrical performance it’s basic, with little more than just Hama Ali herself on a tiny stage to tell it. It would be great to see slightly more investment in theatricality to help bring about the changes in mood, location and time, which would in turn elevate this show into award-winning territory. As it is though, The Big Lie is an urgent and captivating story, told by a voice the world needs to hear.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 13 August)