Aamer Rahman: The Truth Hurts

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    John Lennon once said to deliver political messages “with a little milk and honey”; if that’s a test for how the arts can effectively commentate, then it’s one passed by Aamer Rahman, one-half of successful Australian duo Fear of a Brown Planet.

    In this case, the milk is signified by Rahman’s concern for human decency, and the honey is evident in the way he glides through thorny subject matter in a relaxed, matter-of-fact and engaging style.

    The downstairs cabaret venue of the Soho Theatre has been divested of its tables to make room for more people on this sell-out solo run. It’s a predominantly black and Asian audience, but although Rahman, somewhat surprisingly, suggests he is “uncomfortable around large groups of white people”, there’s little here to make anyone feel excluded.

    Most of us can share in his concern over the rise of the extreme right, and find comic relief that the Australian equivalent of the English Defence League was unsuccessful because, says Rahman, Australians prize laziness over racism. We can also all relate to how Rahman, accidentally finding himself in a Nazi death-metal club with his Bangladeshi cousin, would feel pretty tense.

    The measured way in which the 31-year-old breaks down a catalogue of US war crimes overseas shows Rahman as a realist not a polemicist, though the weight of his point is no less for that.

    Occasionally, it feels as if subject matter is led by trope rather than vice versa. Meanwhile, his take on the Anders Breivik killings in Norway puts the political context before the victims in order to make his point, but I can’t buy that they are of no concern to him – and Rahman’s keen sense of injustice is too strong to believe otherwise.

    Julian Hall

    • Soho Theatre, London
    • June 10-21
    • Author/performer: Aamer Rahman
    • Producer: Live Nation
    • Running time: 1hr