STOP PRESS: ‘Does my bomb look big in this’ nominated in Performance ensemble category for OffWestEnd/Offies award today
Young writer-performer digs deep for humour and insight in this three-girl centred journey through culture and belief…
by Suman Bhuchar
THE RESULTS are in, the news cameras are live outside a local school and ‘Aisha’ (Halema Hussain) is talking about her friend ‘Yasmin’ who gave it all up to go be a jihadi bride…
What has happened in this startling transformation? The world must know…but does anyone really know?
In this play, writer and actor Nyla Levy goes deep to attempt to answer it – both within the context of her own story and drama here – and also the wider context of young Britons giving up life here for a very different existence in Syria or Iraq and the parts of it formerly controlled by Daesh.
The play completes its run at Soho Theatre in the early part of June before finishing in Luton on June 11. (See below for details).
Directed by Mingyu Lin and designed by Moi Tran, there is much to enjoy in this deftly written 80-minute three-hander performed with humour and dynamism, from the engaging language, to the sharp comedy as the cast constantly break the fourth wall Brechtian style, to tell us that they are (also) actors telling a story.
All the performers are fantastic but a special mention must go to Eleanor Williams as ‘Morgan’, who is asked to be ‘Ammi’ (‘mother’) and goes to buy fruit at a market stall and has to confront the daily racism, and then has a turn as the snobby retail assistant, who won’t even look at the CV of a Muslim girl. Both are just as entertaining and convincing as the other.
So, what made Yasmin turn from a 15-year-old British Asian multicultural London girl into a ‘Terror Baby’ (her words)!
Was it the daily insidious racism, or her mother’s death and her dad’s subsequent new relationship, or was it that being groomed online is particularly seductive…
Produced by Tamasha and Nyla Levy (herself as writer/performer), this play raises some urgent questions in the current climate of protests against the No Outsiders Programme or discussions around the Shamima Begum case – and we need to talk about them openly.
Levy’s own interest in this topic was sparked by constantly having to audition for roles as a ‘jihadi bride’ or ‘terrorist girlfriend’ and she felt those roles didn’t get into the minds of these young Muslim girls.
Another impetus was the rampant Islamophobia experienced by her as a mixed heritage (Muslim and Jewish) person and as a writer she was interested in telling the story behind the headlines.
She began researching, workshopped the subject with young people and has been working on this play since 2016.
It has depth and substance as well as laughs and tender moments that remind us that as a species there is a shared humanity that politics often seeks to obscure and obfuscate for another agenda altogether.
This explores the complexities and contradictions of young people and their vulnerabilities without being patronising or clumsily reductionist and as such packs a punch and is a very insightful piece.
Acv rating: **** (out of five)
‘Does My Bomb look big in this?’ Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE
Until June 8, check times.
Box office: 020 7478 0100 / sohotheatre.com
On June 11, Luton Libraries, Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2NG
Box office: http://www.lutonculture.com