by Shan Khan.
Royal Lyceum Theatre To 27 August 2005 then Birmingham Rep.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 August at Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh.
A one-act play that does a fine job but needs another act.
Shan Khan has written half a very good first-act. So good its 80-minute span seemed half that. But the shock end is really only a midway point before continuing the exploration of an extremely interesting situation involving well-drawn (and finely played) characters.
Khan uses the idea of a room in a further education college set aside for various faiths. Christians use it for teaching and evangelism, Muslims for private devotions, and it’s where Riz inducts his fiancee Jade (a slow if willing learner) into Muslim rites.
Manwhile lone Jew Rila’s allowed a corner, which works until she’s joined by a companion Reuben. Then slicing up the time between 3 faiths’ exclusive use becomes problematic.
Why is unclear, unless this college works a three-and-a-half day week. The arithmetic suggests there’s plenty of time to share out, and while Friday seems a high-demand day this isn’t presented as the problem.
However, Khan’s metaphor recognises youth is where extremism is to be most found, and the dogmatism that comes from discovering a set of rules and applying them in black-and-white.
It’s also fitting his ‘holy fool’ Bunce, a Tourette-ish young man whose compulsive moves and foul-mouthed vocabulary Jimmy Akingbola’s outstanding performance catches as part of a bright personality, should be on the receiving end of the outcome of the religious absolutism and hatreds.
Bunce is the only person who asks questions based on reason rather than dogma, though Khan also shows how the young Muslim Council leader is less absolutist than Fiz.
Khan understands the issues and has vivid skill in dialogue and character drawing. He creates a sinister, frightening absolutism, among people who’re all doing right by their own lights.
And he’s aided by a fine cast in Angus Jackson’s fluent production, which is never self-advertising. Hannah Watkins’ Rila and William Ellis’s Christian leader are excellent in combining self-belief with stony resistance to others’ faiths.
What’s needed is the missing second-act where the brief discussion of tha nature of religious societies might expand, but also where Khan could do his job in working-out the impact of a death on these people. Would any change or modify their views? How might they re-examine their beliefs in the way even Montagues and Capulets eventually managed to do?
It’s a major limitation. But the quality of what’s already there shouldn’t be dismissed – it’s not often I’d encourage a dramatist to keep us another hour in our seats.
Fiz: Roz Ahmed.
Bunce: Jimmy Akingbola.
Brother Kazi: Tolga Safer.
Griffin: William Ellis.
Rila: Hannah Watkins.
Jade: Ashley Madekwe.
Reuben: Iddo Goldberg.
Brother Convert: Peter Swander.
Principal: Howard Ward.
Director: Angus Jackson.
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Composer: Alex Gallafent.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant lighting: Fiona Simpson.