The premise of Bismillah! An Isis Tragicomedy, in the Fringe guide, "a story of radicalisation, disenfranchisment and the rock band Queen" was compelling enough to want to watch the show. Unfortunately by the end of the hour I was the one being made to feel disenfranchised.
By the end of the hour I was the one being made to feel disenfranchised
This two-hander, from Wound Up Theatre, starts strong – British soldier Dean is tied to a pole, hooded, while singing Queen's I Want to Break Free. Interrupted mid-flow by IS fighter Danny, they embark in a conversation that divulges personal information, from girlfriends to working in Weatherspoon's, all from an Iraqi prison cell. Danny is from London while Dean comes from Leeds and although they take completely different standpoints on life, it is their Britishness that manages to create a bond between them.
There were some interesting ideas within the piece, particularly when debating bad birthdays and family obligations but not enough background was disclosed about each man to develop a concrete character. A couple of decent jokes weren't enough to make this piece of theatre a black comedy, as ultimately the dramatic arcs were not pronounced enough – the comedy needed to be funnier, the tragedy more severe and ultimately, it meant that little sympathy was felt for either character's plight. At times, this was the consequence of overacting and rushing over lines, which made the conversation difficult to hear at times. When the story reached its climactic points it felt quite erotic, which I'm not sure was intentional.
Originally seen by Broadway Baby in 2015, it received a more complimentary review. The reason for this discrepancy I can only put down to relevancy – we have acquired so much more information about IS now, that the piece seem a little outdated. It doesn't delve into the real atrocities committed by both sides nor does it strive to get to the heart of what this political conflict is all about.
Overall this was a story with a clear message, that we all are far more similar than we believe ourselves to be. But an IS fighter who changes his mind on jihad over the course of an evening is a little farfetched by any stretch of the imagination, about as much as the idea that he'd never heard of Bohemian Rhapsody.