Pros: The acting is solid and committed.
Cons: The script lacks dramatic tension and fails to challenge the audience into a real reflection on terrorism.
How does it feel for an innocent boy of North African origin to match the description of a terrorist? It is past 2 AM and a car bomb has just exploded in the middle of the city. Amor (Richard Sumitro) is leaving the club where he’s been dancing and drinking all night, when he realises that his friend Shavi (Jonas Khan) has tried to call him five times and left three messages. Shifting continuously between reminiscence, imagination and reality, we follow Amor during 24-hours of irrational fear, concern for his brothers, false illusions and wrong assumptions. We witness his conflicted interaction with his cousin Ahlem (Lanna Joffrey) and we listen to his awkward conversations with Valeria (Nadia Albina), the woman he’s been stalking for over a decade. Eventually, the audience and the protagonist become aware that he’s a stranger in his own country and the bearer of an appearance that could be used against him at any time.
The overly stretched stage can cause some audience engagement problems but director Tinuke Craig tackles this structural limitation by making sure that the actors never spend more than a few minutes in the same spot. The quick paced action is reinforced by Charles Balfour’s sharp use of lighting, which keeps the audience’s attention throughout the performance. The room is abruptly invaded by a bright white light or suddenly blacked out, in accordance with the flow of Amor’s thoughts and recollections.
The entire cast shows great commitment to the play, impeccably led by the dynamic Richard Sumitro. Unfortunately, their skills get little support from a script that lacks depth or a true exploration of the characters. In this hallucinatory monologue/dialogue facts, feeling and actions are often just suggested. Personally, I found it hard to grasp its implicit message, a paradoxical one of inclusion and overcoming of stereotypes that is presented through exploring these very stereotypes. I Call My Brothers fails to challenge the audience into a deeper reflection on the hot topics of terrorism and Islamophobia and, in this regard, would have benefitted from some more dramatic tension.
Author: Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Translated by: Rachel Willson-Broyles
Director: Tinuke Craig
Producer: Gate Theatre Notting Hill
Box Office: 020 7229 0706
Booking Link: http://www.gatetheatre.co.uk/events/all-productions/i_call_my_brothers?spektrix_bounce=true
Booking Until: 3 December 2016