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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Believers Are But Brothers
Bush Theatre   January-February  2018

This is a parents' group lecture or classroom presentation thinly disguised as a piece of theatre. 

Its information value depends on whether you have noticed any news reports at all in the past few years, and its entertainment value is somewhat less. 

Writer-performer Javaad Alipoor has discovered that impressionable young people have access to material that may not be good for them through the internet and social media, and he wants to alert us to that news. 

He begins with the stories of two young British Muslims recruited to ISIS by different paths that both begin with watching a propaganda video online. 

But then he moves beyond that to explain, for example, how teenage nerds can have their childish sexism or racism encouraged and validated by chat room conversations with other teenage nerds, and how the cloak of anonymity can be empowering, leading even the mildest to cyber-bullying and worse. 

He builds to the spectre of a loose network embracing socially inept kids, terrorists, Russian hackers and general nasties, the bad guys exploiting the innocents and the innocents having their darkest impulses nourished and encouraged into action. 

Alipoor's method is simply to tell us all this, sitting at his computer or standing at a microphone, with occasional video illustrations on his laptop or a large-screen projection. 

He is not a very confident speaker, adding to the classroom-report feel of his presentation, and he evidently realizes this, since he repeatedly switches from live speaking to more polished prerecorded videos of himself continuing the talk. 

As an added touch of theatricality, some of his presentation is sent by phone to those audience members who join a WhatsApp group and receive his texts and images. 

Offered to the audience in advance to 'enhance your experience' it is actually exclusionary, since those without phones or choosing not to join the group will spend whole chunks of the hour sitting in the silence while their neighbours read their phones. 

This self-written, self-directed (along with co-director Kirsty Housley) piece is unquestionably sincere, but doesn't really have a lot to say and doesn't really say it very well.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Believers AreBut Brothers - Bush  Theatre 2018

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