Peaceophobia, Greenwich & Docklands International Festival

By Luisa De la Concha Montes

Peaceophobia, co-produced by Speaker’s Corner Collective, Common Wealth Theatre and Fuel Productions was conceived in Bradford in 2018. After four years in the making, and multiple delays caused by COVID-19, it made it to GDIF 2022, demonstrating that it is possible to turn community-led theatre into headlining events.

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[The Cobbled Streets of Geneva], VAULT Festival

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By Keagan Fransch

Adham is a bodyguard, steady and serious, and a stickler for propriety and safe proximity. Raushan is an excitable and curious Imam with a joy for life and an (almost) unshakeable positivity that’s hard to resist. On a rainy day in London, outside Raushan’s mosque, the two unlikely companions strike up a conversation that leads to an odd-couple friendship that changes and grows as they do. However, when Adham asks Raushan to pretend to be his husband (so that he can avoid being ‘set-up’ by his boss), their easy friendship is inevitably put to a difficult test.

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I Wanna Be Yours, Bush Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Ella works three jobs whilst trying to forge a career as an actor in London, but misses the slower pace of her hometown of Hebden Bridge. Haseeb is a Muslim factory worker and writer from Cricklewood who is tired of the whiteness in the poetry scene. Though the two meet in a drama workshop that Ella’s, time passes and their love grows. Yet, it’s not enough to compensate for their differences in privilege. This ever-growing elephant in the room becomes harder and harder for the couple to ignore.

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Does My Bomb Look Big in This?, Soho Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Aisha and Morgan have to go to school one day in August, like almost every other 16-year-old in the country, to collect their GCSE results. Their school is different from the rest of the country’s though – news teams are at the gates of Mitcham High reporting on the recent disappearance of Yasmin Sheikh, dubbed ‘terror baby’ by the Home Secretary. Frustrated with her best friend’s depiction in the media and the way she has been treated by the police after Yasmin left for Syria, Aisha is determined to tell the story of the girl behind the headlines and enlists Morgan’s help.

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Coconut, Ovalhouse

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by guest critic Joanna Trainor

Rumi (Kuran Dohil) is a Muslim atheist, having to hide huge chunks of her life from her family. Including her new, white, non-Muslim boyfriend, Simon. What could possibly go wrong?

Coconut is one of those plays where each person who watches it will take away or resonate with something different, for me it was the role religion plays in our lives.

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Becoming Mohammed, Pleasance Theatre

Director Annamiek van Elst states that, “now more than ever, there is a need to represent narratives around Islam in a positive light”. Too right. Our overly white and insular theatre is trying to diversify, but it still has a long way to go and systemic white, middle class administrations’ unconscious bias to overcome.

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Guards at the Taj, Bush Theatre

Humayun and Babur have known each other since they were boys. Now the newest of emperor Shah Jahan’s imperial guards in Agra, the best friends work side-by-side on the night shift. Today is different, though. The first light of dawn will reveal the completed Taj Mahal, previously hidden from anyone other than its makers. Fit to burst with excitement, the two don’t know that the day to come will irrevocably change them as they fall prey to the giant cogs of the imperial machine.

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The Collector, Greenwich Theatre

by guest critic Maeve Ryan

When the British army arrived in Northern Ireland, beleaguered Catholics came onto the streets offering them tea, biscuits and cake. How long did it take for the story to change to the one that we know today? In The Collector, Naseer joyfully swaps music CDs with the American soldiers who arrive into Iraq in 2003 because he hopes for democracy and change. He learnt his English by listening to American rap music and soon he becomes a valuable translator for the soldiers. The Collector documents the slow brutalization of the occupiers and the occupied through choices they make; choices that, in Henry Naylor’s play, feel inevitable.


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“Just let the wind untie my perfumed hair…” or, Who Is Tahirih?, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A woman sings behind a gauzy white curtain. We cannot see her face, but in her soaring cries we hear her passion. This is Tahirih, born in what is now Iran in the early 1800’s (we don’t know her exact date of birth because authorities burned these documents after her execution). She is a poet, theologist and women’s rights activist, and she has enough followers that the country views her as a national threat to the patriarchal Islam that requires women to be veiled in public.

In the days leading up to her execution, Delia Olam plays people from Tahirih’s life, unfolding her biography, teachings and radical actions. These we see plainly, but Tahirih is always behind the curtain, playing and singing. As the revered and reviled woman is sculpted through the accounts of others whilst her face remains hidden, she becomes mythical and hugely powerful, a revolutionary who’s life is tragically cut short.

Olam’s script and performance meld into a fluid solo performance that is a fitting tribute to such a remarkable woman. Her physical and vocal distinction between the handful of characters she plays is detailed and precise. A servant, Tahirih’s father, an executioner, and a female follower are crafted in detail, and all visited by the audience who go to these people to discover more about this woman who is revolutionary, dangerous, or both. This is excellent clarification of the audience/character relationship in solo performance format – it makes sense with the play’s circumstances and embeds the audience in the action. There is none of the talking out into undefined space or invisible characters that alienates the audience and removes the character from reality, something that often occurs in solo performance. Across these characters in different places and with different relationships to Tahirih, there is still a clear, well-proportioned narrative arc building to an awful end.

The scenes themselves are well-crafted and provide a snapshot of the landscape of attitudes towards women in Iran at the time. They are simply staged and prettily enhanced with candlelight, their simple, calming beauty juxtaposes the inevitable prospect of her death. Transitions are a touch slow; some are smoothed with recorded music whereas others have silent gaps as Olam transforms in and out of Tahirih, who sings and plays between characters. The silences make for a choppy disruption, but this is a minor issue easily forgiven in view of the story’s excellent construction and execution.

To learn about such a remarkable woman through a strong show and performance feels as much of a privilege as it is an education. Olam has fantastic instinct for storytelling and character development, and this detailed show needs hardly any improvement. Do not miss it.

“Just let the wind untie my perfumed hair…” or, Who Is Tahirih? runs through 29th August.

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