Another World: Losing Our Children To Islamic State

Published April 18, 2016

What’s it all about?

One of Nicolas Kent’s triumphs from his time as Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre were his timely, revealing and sometimes shocking verbatim pieces. He brings this skill now to the National Theatre’s intimate Temporary Theatre with a piece developed with writer Gillian Slovo to explore one of the most pressing issues of our time; ISIS’ barbarism and radicalisation.

With just a few chairs on stage and a backdrop of video screens that flit from every day familiar community scenes to horrific snippets of the shocking scenes we have become almost numb to, Kent’s provocative and devastating production pieces together Slovo’s interview with a myriad of people who have in some way – either brutally directly or intellectually indirectly – been impacted by Islamic State.

It’s challenging, compelling theatre that cuts through the media’s fear-inducing rhetoric to try and find sense in a seemingly senseless situation.  

Who’s in it?

Stripping back all the bells and whistles of theatre for verbatim theatre of this kind requires a truly sensational cast and in this Another World succeeds triumphantly.

Nathalie Armin, Penny Layden and Sirine Saba are incredible as a trio of mothers whose children have journeyed from their Western homes to join the fight in Syria. Each give deeply measured, stirring and raw performances that take us from shear, almost hysterical disbelief to the most brutal heartbreak. Their counterparts are Farshid Rokey, Ronak Patani and Zara Azam, who are flawless as Tower Hamlets students who eloquently recount the ridiculous prejudices they have been forced to daily shut down as young British Muslims fighting a battle against sensationalist tabloid headlines.

What should I look out for?

A display of superhuman strength from mothers willing to risk everything for the safety of their children.

A chorus of politicians, lawyers, aid workers and academics that attempt to disperse the all too familiar simplistic story of  good versus evil with a more layered history of what has led to ISIS’ rise.

In a nutshell?

The National Theatre deliver a compelling, testing and fascinating evening in an even handed production that successfully balances human experience with intellectual theory.  

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

Verbatim theatre isn’t for all. To be good, its performances must be perfectly naturalistic and its content even handed, sometimes fiercely uncomfortable and often devastating. This production nails both. It strips ISIS back from all its fear-inducing propaganda and attempts to put it in some context, which is both informative and perspective changing. There’s no easy answers or solutions to be offered here, but it’s a thought-provoking, timely piece sure to spark further conversation.

Another World: Losing Our Children To Islamic State is playing until 7 May. You can book tickets through the National Theatre’s website.