Quilliam transported us into their world with this innovative, captivating, controversial performance which examined Islamic radicalisation in a series of complex twists and turns. Amongst the swirling narrative of magic carpets, ancient warrior queens and a Muslim Banksy, was a spotlight shone upon the dark underbelly of Western interpretations of jihadism as four young Muslims journeyed through radicalisation. At no point were ISIS defended, but as the audience we were offered the perspective of frustrated young Muslims who are often denied a voice.
Triumphed in not only challenging stereotypes, but asking its audience to consider all perspectives upon matters we consider ourselves knowledgeable, but when exposed are ignorant.
What the performance excelled in was provoking thought; Nazish Khan’s writing drew a fascinating parallel between the consumer culture of television shopping channels and the conversion of young Muslims into Jihadi fighters. Four white sheets surrounding the stage gave the set an ethereal quality which elevated the divisive concepts into a dream-like alternative 3D space. The sheets doubled as a kind of transparent cultural boundary of the Western world and a suffocating grip of jihadism.
Multi-rolling lifted sections of the performance to ingenious levels. Shadows used to create alternative silhouettes and the effortless change in body language and idiolect from the performers made the shifts in character believable and enchanting. The physical elements, though subtle, were executed to perfection, the performers’ bodies remaining stable and graceful through lifts, falls and fights. A stand-out moment was a mock resurrection sequence which left performer Rebecca Banatvala entwined between the sheets of white material and illuminated in stark lighting which seemed to strip bare the terms jihad, Muslim and Brit, and reveal a young girl.
Witty rhymes and fast-paced poetry was used effectively to challenge ethnic and religious stereotypes which saturate a modern interpretation of Islam. Spoken word elements which combined British sub-culture dialect with an exotic call-to-prayer bridged the gap between Islamic fundamentalism and the young Brits who feel compelled towards it. Rhymes also added elements of humour which alleviated tension as the performance wrestled with provocative topics.
The ability to grapple with such complex ideas with even more theatrical complexity made the show perplexing, passionate and often bizarre – though the sort of bizarre that was difficult to look away from. A poignant moment which summed up the tone of the performance was a revelation that ‘jihad’ actually means ‘struggle’. The show triumphed in not only challenging stereotypes, but asking its audience to consider all perspectives upon matters we consider ourselves knowledgeable, but when exposed are ignorant.