Love, Bombs and Apples review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘bubbling humour’
In this quartet of monologues by Hassan Abdulrazzak, Asif Khan inhabits characters from Palestine, Pakistan, Bradford and New York, each of whom are associated by their race with conflicts on their doorstep or on the other side of the world.
In Love in a time of Barriers a Palestinian actor tries to get a British NGO worker to sleep with him after his (self-described)”electric” performance of Hamlet. But she just wants him to drive her to see the Wall. It’s a wicked but gentle send-up of those that travel to help in foreign conflicts.
The satire intensifies in the next monologue as a Pakistani would-be author of “the definitive post-9/11 novel” is arrested for compiling a terror manual. Played effete and dim, the biggest laugh of the night is the realisation that he is more upset at writing a bad novel than being held under the Terrorism Act.
It is perhaps helpful that a piece about misinterpreted writing precedes the next monologue, The Apple, in which a Bradford Muslim man spends his days staring at iPhones in Westfield, and dreaming of joining ISIS. The darkest of the plays, its Chris Morris-like genius is to present a radicalisation that doesn’t stem from hate-speech and segregation, but poverty and lack of prospects.
The final monologue is the most unwieldy, as a Jewish man with a pro-Israel father negotiates his relationship with an activist, pro-Palestinian girl. Over-staged in places and overwritten in others, it nevertheless has the inappropriate, bubbling humour of Abdulrazzak’s other monologues.