I Call My Brothers review at the Gate Theatre, London – ‘fractured’

Jonas Khan and Richard Sumitro in I Call My Brothers at the Gate. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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This rambling, fractured narrative by bestselling Swedish author Jonas Hassen Khemiri, following a young man in the 24 hours after a bomb explodes in a city, can’t find the sweet spot between being too subtle and bashing its audience over the head.

Through a fluid and unreliable first person narration, we follow Amor coping with the aftermath of, presumably, a terrorist attack: the increased police presence, the glances and stares because of the colour of his skin, the growing paranoia.

The sharp, staccato lines – “I did this, I did that” – begin to grate after a while and only very occasionally do they land with any force. The cast struggles to do justice to the peculiar rhythm of the writing, too. Richard Sumitro as Amor captures an innocence and earnestness that are being trampled on by a cruel world, and there’s a noticeable fear in his eyes throughout, but the delivery of Khemiri’s repetitive, first-person lines is awkward, stilted even.

Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey has gone all out on her design, transforming the Gate Theatre’s usual black box into a gleaming, clinically white space. The other three actors sit in glass cubicles when they have no lines. But the crisp, stylish look doesn’t complement the play particularly well and watching the actors fill in a crossword or do some knitting in their cubicles is a distraction.

It’s difficult to get a grip on the narrative: at one point Amor almost convinces us he was the bomber, even though we know he wasn’t, testing our prejudices and assumptions. While the play’s themes are potent, they’re expressed awkwardly. It has something important to say, but can’t express itself clearly.

Race and racial prejudice are confronted awkwardly in Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s play