The Believers Are But Brothers review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘bold and gut-twisting’
You’ll need WhatsApp to fully appreciate The Believers Are But Brothers. Writer, performer and co-director Javaad Alipoor uses a live group chat, into which the audience has been added pre-show, to augment this ambitious, drama-infused lecture about radicalisation in the age of the meme.
Alipoor, sat in front of a blinking bank of message boards and webcams, weaves a digital tapestry of video clips, newsreels and illustrations, his softly-spoken commentary jumping between Egyptian prison cells, jihadi training camps, teenagers’ bedrooms, and the blue screen of your own iPhone.
It’s accessible, hugely informative stuff. Delving into an online rabbit hole rampant with intolerance and extremism lurking just a few clicks away, Alipoor – a genial, gentle, slightly stuttery guide – covers a lot of ground: Isis, 4chan, Gamergate, Trump, Brexit, and more.
The show is rough around the edges, its tripartite narrative ill-defined and its line of argument occasionally absent, but it’s also boldly conceived and gut-twistingly immediate. It shines a light on a festering corner of the internet – a 21st-century crucible of hate – then observes how fetid tendrils are snaking out into the mainstream. It is, in a way, terrifying.