'Rest Upon the Wind' review or 'I'm a soul ignitor. No really, I am.'

'Rest Upon the Wind', Nadim Sawalha
Tristran Bates Theatre, Friday 25th November
Written for Time Out
Gibran in the shadows. Unfortunately, he stays there.

Gibran Khalil Gibran's collection of poetry, 'The Prophet', sold over 100 million copies following its publication in 1923. Evidently, Gibran's advice on how to live a meaningful life in a materialistic world, hit a nerve. If only there was a stronger sense of this message - and the man behind in it - in Nadim Sawalha's vague biographical play, 'Rest Upon the Wind'.

We begin in a café, where Gibran lectures a surly waiter on the importance of his work: 'I planted passion for freedom in my people's hearts!' The production then jolts between Gibran's frightened childhood in Lebanon and his frustrated artistic career in Boston, as both painter and writer.

At times, director Tanushka Marah seems to hint at a latent hypocrisy in Gibran's work. For, whilst Gibran might extol the virtues of a spiritual and selfless existence, he also craves money, ladies and cashmere coats. One of Gibran's lovers even dismisses his work as 'holier than thou shite.' There is nice work from Nathalie Dew, as sceptical sister Miryanna, whose greatest concern is not her brother's success but the contents of his supper: 'Are you vegetarian now?'

Yet neither director or writer commits to a consistent perspective on the poet and, whilst minor characters criticise him, the play's framework remains reverential. Indeed, the show closes with Gibran bathed in a warm spotlight as an awe-struck crowd recites his work. Such contradictions place a heavy burden on principal actor, Nabil Elouahabi, who seems uncertain whether his character is laudable or laughable.

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