Salaam, Vault Festival

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by Laura Kressly

Rema and her mum are at home in East London during Ramadan, preparing to break the day’s fast, when their living room window shatters. Another day, another hate crime – but this event is the catalyst for a holiday full of new friends, new understanding, new creative expression and new betrayals.

Amongst other things. Sara Aniqah Malk’s script is chokka with themes – terrorism, mother/daughter relationships, racism, identity and language, faith, friendship and the white saviour. They’re all relevant and important to see on stage, but there are too many to fully delve into within a festival-length play. The story tries to do too much with the time it has.

The performances are outstanding, as is Malk’s staging and the accompanying live music. Yasmin Wilde as Mariam is soothing and maternal, the epitome of peace and love in a country that loathes her for her brown skin and unwavering faith. She feels sorry for the ignorance of those that pull off her hijab and disassociates herself from the terrorists that commandeer the news. Her daughter Rema (Raagni Sharma) brims with teen angst and creative impulse as she struggles to understand herself and the world around her. Her well-meaning pal Ellie (Laura Waldren) also has her own battles, and a lack of understanding of her white privilege. The tension between Sharma and Waldren’s characters is palpable, and contrasts beautifully with Wilde.

As the month of prayer and reflection comes to a close, the three women are not the same women they were at the beginning of the month. Though their journeys are satisfying the too numerous milestones along the way would be more connected and investigated with more time.

Salaam runs through 3 February.

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