Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Detainee A" - June 2007

Back at The Arches again for Ankur Productions 'Detainee A'. This had already provided much hilarity in our house due to my complete inability to pronounce its title. Hopefully the actors would be better at delivering their lines. Statler phoned in sick for this one with man flu, so it was left to me to represent View From the Stalls.

An original work is always a gamble, you go in blind and especially when it's a company you've not seen perform before. The premise was interesting - how would a Glasgow family react to the arrest of their son for suspicion of terrorism, and how would it impact on their lives, and those around them. Unfortunately real events have shown how both mistaken arrests and viable threats exist around us today.

Based on a screenplay by Ankur participant Shahid Nadeem and adapted by Vivien Adam this was a tightly focused look at the arrest of Ali Malik (Susheel Kumar) largely set around the family home over what seemed a short timespan. We're introduced to the characters quickly and easily, with the youngest family member Salim (Omar Raza) narrating whilst others freeze around him (something Statler would have loved). Ali, the annoying older brother; Yusef (Tagz Nazeer) the 'dead cool' brother's best friend and Rukhsana (Sharita Scott), the politically aware older sister. The other protagonists weave in and out and the framework of relationships is clearly drawn.

The ensemble cast of community performers and professional actors worked well together and performed well in the difficult acoustics of The Arches, with Sarita Bhardwaj and Sanjeev L. Chitnis as Ali's parents giving particularly emotionally strong performances. The story telling device of silhouettes in the background was effective, with live music adding to the general atmosphere. Unfortunately some of the more dramatic moments didn't work for me. The police raid in particular felt weak, and didn't convey enough of the fear, confusion and anger that armed police bursting through your door at dinner time would cause. I also felt that the sense of violation as your home and family are placed under the microscope was an opportunity missed. Yes we learned secrets about Ali, but the cynic in me believes the family wouldn't be treated so kindly.

The smaller touches are what lifted this for me. Things like unthinkingly and well meaningfully saying to a Muslim that you 'Owe them a beer', a gesture that upsets the outsider who sees it as particularly insulting. Simple but effective illustration of how mis-perceptions arise when come at from different cultures. Again the dilemma of a father who has to accept his son is either a terrorist, or is following an innocent course of actions, but of which is father doesn't approve.

In the post show discussion we were asked what we had taken from the play. A lot of laudable sentiments were expressed and deep and meaningful comments on the state of the world were mentioned. Maybe my consciousness is beyond raising, but for me the message was simpler than any of that. It was that families are largely the same regardless of culture, with parental pride and disappointment in equal mix and children who are both eager to please and wanting to be different at the same time.

1 Heckle

Statler said...

I was sorry to have to miss this one, and the direction with the use of freezing the action to allow characters to narrate sounds like the kind of thing I adore.

We were alerted to this by one of the cast (Omar Raza) who we had previously seen in Citz Young Co. shows contacting us via MySpace, and later by Ankur themselves on MySpace. It's nice to see them making good use of its promotional potential, although due to them wiping our profile for no reason we're currently in a bit of a huff with MySpace generally.