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Home » Non-fiction, Reviews, Theatre

THEATRE – BLACK ALBUM, NATIONAL THEATRE

Submitted by admin on November 18, 2009 – 10:58 amNo Comment

by Hannah Gilkes

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In 1995 Hanif Kureishi looked back and saw the beginnings of a trend that was to prove prophetic. The Black Album follows the young Shahid from Kent as he starts university in London, accompanied by a host of mudane motherly warnings and a packed lunch.

Once he gets there we watch him slide from ecstasy inspired debauchery to anti-racism evangelist to the verge of fundamentalism, however, one of the problems of this play is that this slide has to be accomplished rather quickly. The personal understandings that Shahid comes to in the novel are lost and we are left with no real understanding of what makes him choose the path that he does.

The change of medium means that Jonathan Bonnici, playing Shahid, is left with a difficult task, but the wide-eyed, almost bouncy approach that he takes starts to grate. More subtelty is in evidence as the play progresses but his initial undiscerning enthusiasm when he reaches his university is exhausting to watch. Alexander Andreou as Riaz provides an effective foil to Bonnici, eternally concentrating on competing with Deedee, Shahid’s liberal tutor, for Shahid’s allegiance.

Kureishi’s fundamentalists are not evil. They are not caricatured either, rather seeming to seek a sense of belonging. Shadid is drawn to their passion before he is forced to walk a difficult line between free speech and religious respect. This play throws up many important questions, but the main one that you are left with is whether the relevance of the subject matter is able to justify a slightly lame adaptation.

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