Boogong Masthead

Disgraced: A dinner party with a serving of secrets

Heather Wallace

The old rule that you should never talk about religion or politics at the dinner table has been turned on its head and served up with a side of turbulent relationships in playwright Ayad Akhtar Disgraced.

Four people sit down to dinner in an elegant New York apartment. Amir Kapoor (Sachin Joab) is happy, in love, and about to land the biggest promotion of his life. But beneath all the trappings, success has come at the price of distancing himself from his Islamic faith.

The play starts as he and his wife Emily (Geraldine Hakewill), a Caucasian artist inspired by Islamic painting, host a dinner party for Amir’s co-worker and professional rival, Jory (Paula Arundell), and her Jewish husband, Isaac (Glenn Hazeldine). The evening starts pleasantly but soon erupts into a heated debate over race, religion and culture. Adding to the drama is Amir’s nephew, Abe (Shiv Palekar), who has concerns the recent arrest of a local imam is a set-up and wants his uncle to take the case.

Ahead of the production’s tour to the Canberra Theatre Centre, Paula Arundell talks about audiences’ reactions, describing how they are both gob smacked and excited at the end of the evening. “It’s thrilling and intense, a wonderfully intellectual sport being played out on stage,” Paula says.


She explains it’s a realistic scenario that has audiences cringing in their seats. “Some people have come up to me after to say it reminds them of some dinner parties they’ve been to.”

A NIDA trained actress and singer, Paula says she was attracted to the play because of its exploration of identity. “It hits the nail on the head, coming up against people’s pre-conceived ideas about race and culture.”

There’s a deeper element too that Paula says adds to the tension. “Each character has secrets slowly coming out, and that stops it just being a conversation. There is a deeper meaning to everything being said. It’s not really about a dinner party at all, it’s so much more complex.”

With emotions heightened and secrets emerging around the table, I ask Paula if food gets thrown throughout the evening. “Ah, that would be telling,” Paula laughs, “You’ll have to wait and see.”

the essentials 

What: Disgraced
Where: The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre
When: Wednesday 22 June, 8pm

Thursday 23 June, 8pm (followed by post-show Q&A)

Friday 24 June, 8pm

Saturday 25 June, 2pm & 8pm

Tickets: Adult, $55 – $75, Concession, $45 – $65, Group 8+, $55 – $65, Under 27s, $40 – $60
Bookings: or call the Box Office on (02) 6275 2700

Photography by Prudence Upton


Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (, is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author

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