I Call My Brothers**** (Gate Theatre)

Posted: November 15, 2016 in Theatre

i-call-my-brothersThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

A car bomb explodes in a city centre, chaos descends and fingers of suspicion start to be pointed. Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s 80-minute one-act play looks at the aftermath of such an outrage not from the perspective of the terrorists or the dead and injured, but from that of another sort of victim.

The place is Sweden, but it could be anywhere in Europe or North America. Amor (Richard Sumitro) is a student, dark-skinned and a not very devout Muslim. After a night out clubbing, he heads home to sleep it off and wakes the following morning to hear of what has happened. He calls his “brothers” (meaning those sharing his ethnicity) and is warned to keep a low profile. “Walk like a person who isn’t thinking about walking” he is advised. The play follows Amor through a day in which he encounters many challenges, always thinking that he is being watched.

Designer Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey configures the studio space cleverly, with the audience placed along what seems like a long passageway, its wall painted in sterile white. Thus we become embroiled in what Amor sees as a conspiracy of suspicion, the majority set against a small minority. The writer drip feeds information, generating suspense and sometimes making our suspicions feel well founded.

Amor roams the city and, against the advice of his “brothers”, he carries a back pack which contains nothing more threatening than a broken hand drill. He tells his story to the audience and talks with other characters on his mobile phone. Director Tinuke Craig uses the full width of the stage to keep characters apart and emphasise Amor’s sense of isolation. His best friend, Shavi (Jonas Khan) pesters him constantly with trivial news about his new-born daughter, a charity worker presses him to donate, his opinionated cousin and deluded grandmother (both Lanna Jeffrey) call to show their concern. Life goes on as normal when nothing is really normal at all and everyday irritants become greatly exaggerated.

Sumitro holds the stage throughout, treading the fine line between comedy and serious drama with natural skill. Amor is not the type who could hide in plain sight easily, his eccentric sense of humour marking him out. His childhood sweetheart (Nadia Albina) no longer reciprocates his feelings, but his behaviour towards her comes close to stalking and Sumitro plays on the suggestion that there could be something sinister about Amor very effectively.

The writer’s style is cryptic, yet still sharp and spiked with playful humour. When he charts a path along which isolation can turn into alienation, his play assumes its most urgent relevance. We know that terrorism is a modern nightmare that has many dimensions, but this thought-provoking production shines a different light on it.

Performance date: 14 November 2016

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