Love, Bombs and Apples, Arcola Theatre, review: ‘Powerful, political theatre’

Love, Bombs and Apples

Love, Bombs and Apples - Credit: Archant

The subject matter may be terrorism and the ceaseless conflict between Israel and Palestine, but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak’s four thought-provoking vignettes.

Though unwaveringly political, the one-man show’s focus is instead on the very human urges of four young men from different corners of the globe, as they navigate the often-threatening world in which they live.

Originally performed at the Arcola’s Shabbak Festival last summer to celebrate contemporary Arab culture, we observe a sex-obsessed Palestinian trying to get laid without being shot by Israeli guards; an accidental terrorist who just wants to write a great novel; a frustrated Islamic fundamentalist who’s as entranced by the Apple store as he is by Isis; and a lapsed Zionist, who wants to spice up his sex life with his Jewish pro-Palestinian girlfriend.

The situations are ripe for black comedy, and Chris Morris’ hilarious film, Black Lions, about hapless British terrorists, sprung to mind.

But what makes the play so powerful is how plausible these stories are.

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Young Arab and Jewish men do have to deal with the issues we watch on the news every day; but they’re also normal young men, with the same base desires as the rest of us.This juxtaposition is at the heart of each vignette.

We go from the comical to the heart-wrenching and poignant in an instant, but Abdulrazzak’s deft touch ensures it’s never jolting.

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But the play would be nothing without Asif Khan’s powerhouse performance as all four men.

The characters are all so different, but as soon as Khan steps into his next role by simply adjusting his hair and slightly altering his outfit, the audience is transfixed, sucked into another one of these men’s worlds.

Mila Sander’s set design never distracts. Though props for all stories are on stage from the start, somehow with each new story you are instantly transported to The Wall in Palestine, a semi in London, or a New York gym locker room.

A lesson in how to stage powerful, political theatre.

Love, Bombs and Apples is at the Arcola Theatre.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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