A big Thank You to our Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft for his review of the Gate Theatre’s I Call My Brothers…
What happens when fear and paranoia become as suffocating and pervasive as hunger or pain? This is the theme of the Gate’s new production, I Call My Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. In the wake of a terrorist attack in Central London anyone of Arabic, Middle Eastern or Pakistani appearance both feel and become suspect. For highly secular and western oriented individuals like Amor, -sharply and empathetically played by Richard Sumitro – the central character of the play, this can be particularly bewildering, alienating and a deeply oppressive experience.
The stark minimalist set accentuates this sense of a world of alienation and disconnect. This is further underlined by the fact that, as in contemporary life, so much of the dialogue is largely conducted, – disconnected, broken up, at cross purposes, – on mobile phone.
Drunk coming home from a dance Amor is just another late-night reveller, or so he assumes, but there has been an explosion, a terrorist attack, and a description has been circulated. Amor has now become a suspect.
What to cling to in a world divorced from real community? We fall back on memory and the ubiquitous mobile phone. Which is what Amor does. His past struggling to remain coherent in the face of a chaotic threatening present.
His cousin, the daunting Ahlem, (Lana Joffrey), thinks she has a better answer in a feel-good new age philosophy. This peppers her conversation with an unconvinced Amor. Shavi, (Jonas Khan), his friend whom ‘he loves like a brother,’ on the other hand wraps himself in his new born baby, in family and friendship. It is Shavi whose calls to alert him are ignored by Amor, and Shavi who is there for him when Amor needs him.
There are several sub plots, some of which work better than others. Though all the time the play crackles with wit and dark humour, of which Amor being tracked by a Met surveillance team stands out, a mix of suspicion, comedy and menace.
I Call My Brothers is a gripping and stimulating play that examines dark side of community politics, the fear and oppressive anxiety that underlies being part of a ‘suspect’ community.
Stand out performances by Lanna Joffrey and Richard Sumitro with Jonas Khan and Nadia Albina adding both passion and humour to the performance.
Photo credit Ikin Yum