Deadly Dialogues starts quietly and simply with a single figure in the praying area of a mosque, ‘a small mosque in a local community anywhere’. However it is soon apparent that this play, dealing with the current turbulent state of Islam, is a complex presentation of the many underlying and conflicting issues of Islam that dominate much of our news and societal discussions outside the theatre and contrasts with the early beginnings of Islam as a religion that promotes peace. The dialogue flows rapidly like a turbulent river in full spate, buffeting the audience around as the flow and counter flow of characters and ideas bounce to and fro. The journeys of the four protagonists, Zulfi, Bacchus, Zenobia and Sayidaa, are interwoven in an entangled set of threads complicated as they morph temporarily into different characters along the way. The audience are challenged to unravel these threads despite the unrelenting pace. The danger is that for many only a general view is likely to emerge by the end. This is a pity as there is a lot of material to ponder: radicalisation and its multifaceted effects, conflicts between imams, the fates of those from suburban British backgrounds sent as jihadists to conflicts round the world, and the position of women in Islamic culture.
This production has many strengths and showed cohesion in its different components. The actors delivered the flowing poetic dialogue smoothly and interacted seamlessly. The lines buzzed with imagery. The difficulties of discovering our identities without being unknowingly moulded in our thinking were imaginatively covered, particularly the idea of an imaginary teleshopping channel that would enable buyers to create their dream by purchase of objects that fulfilled it
Credit should be given to the director Jessica Lazar and to Yvan Karlsson for their use of stage movement; the way actors moved and utilised the stage was integral in creating the various scenes and made a significant contribution to engaging the audience and heightening the drama.
There was also intelligent use of the set with the four white drapes at the corner of the tile-lined square white stage, the use of drapes providing imagery that matched the words. As a portrayal of the current interactions between Islam and society outside Islam it succeeded. How widely the play delivers the messages its talented author, Nazish Khan intended remains to be seen.
Bruce Ward 24th August 2017