Set in a class of sixteen year olds, Extremism explores the impact of counter-terrorism legislation PREVENT and growing Islamophobia in the UK. Upon entering the venue, a stern teacher calls for a straight line and good behaviour while handing out a quiz on PREVENT, immediately setting the scene. The story begins with Jamal being taken away by the police after his teacher flags him as a potentially radicalised person. From then on, the teenagers are left to their own devices.
Extremism certainly sparks emotional reactions and topical debate.
Extremism incorporates most contemporary debates surrounding terrorism in the format of a large group discussion, peppered with childish insults and pop culture references. While it does raise some important questions about the role of race and the taboo around wanting to feeling safe, Extremism was somewhat, well, extreme in its dialogue. The script feels a little underdeveloped, with debates sounding heavy-handed and somewhat unnatural. For example, Samuel (dedicatedly played by Liam Walsh) speaks only in Klingon to emphasise his social alienation which I found incredibly bizarre, though this was forgiven for the comedic opportunities it presented. Extremism does manage to include well-needed humour, such as when Chris (Adam Savva) realises the government can see his internet history, which adds some balance to the overall piece.
The cast is made up of eleven talented young people who perfectly set the scene with cruel jibes and conflicting personalities. Elena Georghiou as Suhayla did a fantastic job in a demanding role, balancing Suhayla’s strength and determination with her vulnerability and delivering a strong performance. Similarly, Adam Savva as Chris had superb comic timing and an impressive stage presence. Holly Butcher and Lemonitsa Petris as Rachel and Melina respectively conveyed painful ignorance with such conviction, that I felt myself become frustrated.
Extremism certainly sparks emotional reactions and topical debate, pushing the boundaries of comfort almost too far in some cases. Repeated and unaddressed fat-shaming aimed at Evan (Ellie Killeen) is one such example, though the script’s limitations do not detract from the stellar performance given by all involved.