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Salaam, The Vaults – review

Spanning the 30 days of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, this play tells the story of Rema (Raagni Sharma) and mother Mariam’s (Yasmin Wilde) journey and growth during this spiritual time. It is a heartfelt story reminding us of the importance of unity, friendship and love. It's a topical issue for today’s society, addressing conflicts of religion, terrorism and community. Sara Aniqah Malk's script is both pure and real. The little intricate lines that help to establish the mother-daughter relationship, the friendship between Rema and Ellie (Laura Waldren), are all executed brilliantly due to this script and these actors.…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A serious production centred around conflict and religion with beautiful excerpts of movement and an emotional story about coming together in times of turmoil and hate.

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Spanning the 30 days of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, this play tells the story of Rema (Raagni Sharma) and mother Mariam’s (Yasmin Wilde) journey and growth during this spiritual time. It is a heartfelt story reminding us of the importance of unity, friendship and love. It’s a topical issue for today’s society, addressing conflicts of religion, terrorism and community.

Sara Aniqah Malk’s script is both pure and real. The little intricate lines that help to establish the mother-daughter relationship, the friendship between Rema and Ellie (Laura Waldren), are all executed brilliantly due to this script and these actors. They are all talented in their craft, and their characters have depth to them and thrive.

With a story as serious as Salaam, it is very hard to maintain the level of intensity throughout. The ebbs and flows of comedic elements help this piece along and gives the heavier sections – such as the Muslim hate crimes and Rema’s inner conflicts with identity – a nice relief. This relief definitely shows in Rema and Ellie’s friendship, the innocence in their typical teenage relationship is smooth and warming. Not only does Malk establish a relationship between the characters we did see but also the ones we didn’t – Ellie’s brother, Rema’s sister. The depth to these characters is never ending, I felt like I’d known them for years through intimacy they lay bare on stage.

The live vocals and violin are beautiful and soulful; they work with the piece well during the more abstract movement parts, and complement the act of wadu, the prayer and the more serious and tense moments. The Vaults is such an experimental location that the vocals echo through the whole room.

As this play is still in development it still has a way to go. The staging definitely can be improved on. Having a play set in the round, you are expected to use all of the space, pushing the performance out to each and every side of the audience so no one gets left out. I was missing beautiful passages because the actors had their back directly to me, which was frustrating.

It’s a story that is contemporary and relevant to what it is like living as a Muslim in today’s society, where stability comes from faith and relationship to Allah. It was beautiful to see this culture thrive, and the complex details they go into, to show the audience Ramadan and Islam as a whole and the beauty that comes with it.

Writer/Director: Sara Aniqah Malk
Producer: Niall Dingle
Booking Until: This play has ended its run at Vaults Festival

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