Brown Boys Swim is Karim Khan’s hilarious, touching tale of best friends Kash and Mohsen learning how to swim for a pool party. The relationship between Kash and Mohsen is so refreshingly organic, and is developed in such a natural way that we believe they have been friends for years without them explicitly having to tell us so. Varun Raj as Kash is astounding, displaying his youthful lack of shame masterfully, whilst also aptly expressing his want to fit in and be accepted by the society around him. He has an electric chemistry with Anish Roy as Mohsen, whose portrayal of Kash’s more reluctant counterpart is highly impressive, exuding all the nervous anxiety and standoffish energy of a youth stuck on the perimeter of his community. Their relationship is well rounded and grounded in reality, as they play around, argue and support each other; their characters go through satisfying and intriguing arcs. Both actors seem to be bursting at the seams with emotion, dynamism and the sense of having something to say, from their fantastic physicality to their exceptional vocal skills.
Truly breathtaking, a masterpiece of friendship and tragedy
As the narrative begins to darken, the writing conveys its strength through its handling of racism, islamophobia, and the cruel choice one must make between their culture and religion – and being accepted in the society they live in. Both Muslim, Kash and Mohsen are confronted with judgment and discrimination throughout the play, and their differing attitudes to these challenges is what ruptures their relationship; we are presented with the harsh reality of what ethnic minorities and immigrants suffer through in a culture not designed for their success and inclusion. The emotional and topical range of this play is incredible, and had me on the edge of my seat.
The use of set and lighting is expertly handled, adding to the immersive quality of the play. A long, tiled bar is moved across the stage and is used as the edge of the swimming pool, the changing room and a multitude of other settings. This works with the gorgeous blue tones of the lights above to create the believable effect of water. The bar lights up and compliments the music used throughout, enveloping us in the characters’ story.
Brown Boys Swim is truly breathtaking, a masterpiece of friendship and tragedy which you must not miss!