Never mind Back of the Throat (a reference to Arabic speech), it’s the back of the mind that nags in Yussef El Guindi’s powerful, engrossing post 9/11 play.
Throughout the interrogation of Khaled by the two G-Men he has invited into his flat to interview him following a terrorist attack, the audience is never allowed to be totally convinced that he is as innocent as he claims.
It is unnerving. Do we have our suspicions because the facts have been left deliberately ambiguous by the writer, or is the play unearthing some darker suspicion that lurks within us? Or is it just me?
Certainly, the cast skillfully tiptoes through this finely balanced play. As Khaled, former EastEnder Ameet Chana creates an openness and innocence that eventually invites suspicion. It is essential that his switch from helpfulness to evasiveness captures the concern of an innocent man thinking he about to be framed, and the fear of the guilty. It is a dexterous performance.
As the two interrogators from an unnamed US government agency, Malcolm Freeman and Mark Curtis have an equally fine balancing act to play. They must portray both the fanaticism of post-9/11 America, encapsulating the bully-boy tactics of the Bush regime, while keeping the audience on-side just enough to act as advocates as suspicions are raised. Again, they ease through this.
In contrast, Kira Lauren and Tom Kanji have little to grasp with their characters - or three characters in the case of Lauren. Kanji is the underplayed, vengeful, Arab terrorist whose motivation is never truly clear, while Lauren can find little to differentiate between her first two characters - a suspicious librarian and Khaled’s suspicious ex-girlfriend - although her brassy pole dancer Jean shows a sound understanding of comedy.
Mention must be made of Georgia Lowe’s inventive set and also, sadly, of the erratic lighting board - the strength of Guindi’s writing demonstrated in the fact that the strobing spots did not detract.