The Believers Are But Brothers

12 October
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Today, explanations for radicalisation, extremism and terror that seek simplicity are not difficult to find. In doing this, these understandings rarely offer more than a stymied and unenlightening discourse, and are often little more than apologies for racism and misogyny. In the face of this, Javaad Alipoor's one man show, The Believers Are But Brothers, opens a complex and engaging discussion through a seamlessly slick piece of theatre delivered with seriousness, wit and enormous talent.

On the one hand the play is centred unapologetically on a thorough discussion and deconstruction of toxic masculinity in the age of the internet. On the other, with the treatment of radicalisation and associated terms being relayed to us with the prefix ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ - and the implicit suggestion that this means non-white - in the majority of cases, Alipoor presents the experiences of People of Colour in an era when cultural or media representation is still dominated - indeed, ruled - by narratives imposed on them.

In an hour, we’re taken through Javaad and his friends’ own experiences of using social media as People of Colour, provided with a concise social history of how the Islamic State and Men’s Rights movements came to be, and introduced to three characters - Atif, Mirwan and Ethan. It’s the stories of these three men, the shaping of their identities through online space and the interweaving of the events that occur as a result of these identities that provide the depth and breadth of discussion we are, and have been for a long time, in such dire need of.

The use of technology is anything but decorative. From engagement with the audience via WhatsApp, to the eerie disembodiment of Javaad addressing us through a headset and screen with a disconcertingly real digital lag, the production speaks to its audience through the very channels that are its setting.

It’s a truly excellent piece of theatre, and a vitally important piece of work. Don't miss the next opportunity to see it for yourself.

James Roberts