A powerful new play directed by Rufus Norris and written by David Hare, Behind the Beautiful Forevers is running at the National Theatre from 10th November.


The play depicts how India is surging with global ambition. But beyond the luxury hotels surrounding Mumbai airport lies a makeshift slum, full of people with plans of their own.

Zehrunisa and her son Abdul aim to recycle enough rubbish to fund a proper house. Sunil, twelve and stunted, wants to eat until he’s as tall as Kalu the thief. Asha seeks to steal government anti-poverty funds to turn herself into a ‘first-class person’, while her daughter Manju intends to become the slum’s first female graduate.

Their schemes are fragile as global recession threatens the garbage trade, and another slum dweller is about to make an accusation that will destroy herself and shatter the neighbourhood.

Playing the lead role of Zehrunisa, Meera Syal commented: “I’m thrilled to be involved in this wonderful production performing alongside some very talented individuals. Behind The Beautiful Forevers gives the audience an important insight into the complex world of slum politics and power struggles that blight and affect so many lives. What is so often forgotten is that behind the slum walls, there are some highly aspirational individuals with inspiring stories of achievement and success, and this is something that must be celebrated.”

The play is based on the original award-winning book by Katherine Boo and stars Meera Syal with an impressive supporting cast including: Hiran Abeysekera, Esh Alladi, Nathalie Armin, Pal Aron, Tia-Lana Chinapyel, Vincent Ebrahim, Sartaj Garewal, Mariam Haque, Thusitha Jayasundera, Muzz Khan, Ranjit Krishnamma, Manjeet Mann, Nikita Mehta, Anjli Mohindra, Tia Palamathanan, Bharti Patel, Ronak Patani, Chook Sibtain, Anneika Rose, Gavi Singh Chera, Stephanie Street, Anjana Vasan, Assad Zaman and Shane Zaza.

Behind The Beautiful Forevers is a tumultuous play on an epic scale based on the original book by author Katherine Boo, who spent three years in Annawadi, recording the daily lives of its residents. Her uncompromising book won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2012.

Director Rufus Norris, said “Creating a production such as Behind The Beautiful Forevers for the stage is not only a creative challenge but also a physical one. Trying to get the enterprise, chaos and humanity of a slum onto the stage in a way that honours the reality has been a fascinating task. They are a wonderful cast and crew, David Hare has scripted the production brilliantly and I’m looking forward to the opening night. I hope that everyone who comes feels we have done justice to the original book by Katherine Boo.”

Bookings can be made until 13th April.  Part of the Travelex £15 Tickets season, half the tickets for every performance are £15. It will be broadcast to UK cinemas by National Theatre Live on 12th March.