Different is Dangerous is a production from double team Nyla Levy and Fadia Qaraman’s group Two’s Company. It’s a performance the two describe as ‘headphone verbatim’ and comprised of interviews with over a hundred people in Leeds discussing ethnic issues involving the Asian community. Levy and Quaraman listen to their compiled interviews on headphones, then recount what they hear to the audience word for word. It’s a strange gimmick. But it works and provides an interesting and honest insight into general thoughts about England’s Asian community.
There’s very little to the performance: no music, no visual media – you can’t help but feel more could be done with the collected material to make a fuller verbatim, documentary-style piece.
Levy and Quaraman are good performers, embodying the various people from their headphones with subtle impersonations and assured physicality to separate the voices and personalise a few returning ones. The show weaves together an interesting overview of general thoughts regarding racism, prejudice and terrorist paranoia (one of the embodied voices talks about how their family are regularly called the ‘Bin Ladens’). The people interviewed range from the very young to the very old; it’s interesting to hear the change in views from people who were immigrants in the fifties and are now senior members of vibrant communities.What’s impressive is that the majority of the views in the show are real. They’re not commented on. Any commentary and opinions about them are left to the audience, which is one of the production’s strengths.
The performance is slightly jarring at first. There’s something naturally annoying about being talked to by someone who has headphones on and it’s curious why people’s own voices were not considered enough, but perhaps the point is that their voices are being interpreted by outsiders. There’s very little to the performance: no music, no visual media – you can’t help but feel more could be done with the collected material to make a fuller verbatim, documentary-style piece.
But, the production is still fascinating and there’s something to be said for the toned-down, studio style. With its solid performances and fascinating premise, Different is Dangerous is an amusing and intriguing show.