Pleasance Theatre (venue)
04 May 2017 (released)
07 May 2017
There’s a warm and watchable play at the heart of 'Becoming Mohammed' by Claudia Marinaro, now running at the Pleasance Theatre. Director, Annemiek van Elst’s younger brother converted to Islam and the personal desire to support converts and their families as well as educate society is clearly heart-felt.
Based on a true story, Thomas, (played by Jack Hammet) converts to Islam, his sister Sarah (played by Philippa Carson) is enraged by his rejection of their shared life, growing up in a Dutch, atheist family. He becomes friends with Musa (Jonah Fazel) and Aminah (Nadia Lamin), who become his new family and with the fervour of a convert, he is determined to become a spokes-person for Islam. It’s a fascinating subject matter and each character is likeable and clearly drawn.
Unfortunately the plays big themes tend to be oversimplified and it fails to sustain interest. The narrative feels more suited to a novel in its current form, the sheer number of scenes and ‘in between’ moments breaking up the momentum so that the drama loses focus by the second act, despite the casts best efforts to raise the stakes. Though there are moments of real engagement, at times the dialogue and comedy tip into ‘theatre in education’ style, falling a little flat for an adult audience.
Bex Kemp’s design seemed promising at first – transparent boxes filled with objects from his past lining the walls. They create an abstract design which illuminates beautifully in the blue lights between scenes. However the constant shuffling of boxes around the stage, though connected to the plot soon becomes more irritating than revealing. The ‘lived through’ scene changes with mumbled improvisations are an odd distraction and further frustrate the action.
There are many reasons people write plays but it takes real skill to set out to educate and succeed in creating great art at the same time. That said, it’s well worth a try…
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