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‘Duck’ – when you are made to feel nought by those who can’t accept you…(play review)

‘Duck’  – when you are made to feel nought by those who can’t accept you…(play review)

This is a sensitive play about growing up, friendships, family and how to deal with what the world throws at you…

By Suman Bhuchar

ISMAIL ‘SMILEY’ – to his friends – is a talented 14-year-old promising cricketer who goes to a posh public school and likes to bunk off his Latin class to feed the ducks in the local park and talk cricket.

Ismail ‘Smiley’ – Omar Bynon in ‘Duck

As channelled through actor Omar Bynon – he’s immensely likable and engaging. He is about to be the youngest player to make it to his First X1 school team and get an entry into Wisden, often described as the cricketers’ bible. His ambition is to go on a school cricketing tour to Barbados and the second ambition is to get a Newbery Hammer cricket bat for his birthday.

As a teenager of Indian Muslim origin, growing up in London, Ismail lives and breathes cricket and to date has the best scores and life is going swimmingly for him, but the play is set in 2005 and the audience know what’s round the corner.

The entire play is punctuated with a date countdown from May 14 to July 7 – the date of the 7/7 bombings – it’s a backdrop to how life changes for young Ismail and more so for UK Muslims with the growth of Islamophobia.

Also the England cricket team are playing the Ashes that summer and actually end up winning the series after a long gap.

Ismail Smiley is a cricketing

During these fateful months, Ismail celebrates his fifteenth birthday, experiences his first real encounter with racism and behaves badly.

Bynon is a strong performer and in this solo show, he plays all the characters from his dad, to grandma and his friends. His father sees him as a new Sachin Tendulkar, while his Urdu only-speaking granny hears his cricketing ambitions in silence until a hard-nosed coach, Mr Eagles enters his life and calls him “boy” and then he becomes “smelly” to his friends.

Maatin (Patel) whose first play this is, uses cricket terminology to explore, adolescence, belonging and identity through this show and the growing pains of an adolescent are beautifully delineated.

Directed by Imy Wyatt Corner and designed by Maariyah Sharjil, it is beautiful to look at with a back wall of nets, side panels of curtains that become a video screen where you get the dialogue subtitled, as well as hand drawn animation and visuals of what’s going on provided by Aleesha Nandhra and Chewboy.

In the middle is the set, which is a cricket pitch on which Ismail plays a bit of cricket, while performing and engaging directly with the audience in the intimate setting of the space, while the entire 90 minutes is punctuated with a fictitious cricket commentary. Really enjoyable and moving.

Acv rating:**** (four out of five)

Duck’ by Maatin, at The Arcola Theatre (Hackney) until Saturday, July 15, Studio 2, 24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL.
(From June 27)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture