A collection of four satirical monologues written by Hassan Abdulrazzak which manage to find humour in some of the darkest conflicts of today, Love, Bombs and Apples manages to teach us a lesson without us really realising.
Two of the four monologues are based around the Israel-Palestine conflict. Starting roughly when Israel was officially declared as a country in 1947 (although the actual start date is very difficult to pinpoint), this is a conflict that has been going on for a long time. It has been in and out of the news over the years with newer conflicts pushing it to one side when they arrive as they are seen as more newsworthy.
The first (and best) monologue, which depicts the relationship between a Palestinian actor and an English girl studying for her master’s thesis, draws an interesting parallel with this. The English student has a relationship with the Palestinian actor whilst she is in Palestine but she fails to contact him when back in the UK, having submitted her thesis and moved on to something more interesting. For the Palestinians, the conflict is not something they are able to move on from that easily and the personal and intimate nature of the monologue brought this message home, making something that can seem very distant and remote to people in Britain become important and emotional. Asif Khan’s delivery has a lot to do with how hard-hitting the performance is, the awkward eye-contact with audience members was particularly important in drawing us in and maintaining intensity.
The second monologue focused on a Pakistani writer living in London and attempting to write the definitive post-9/11 novel. Unfortunately, his efforts are misinterpreted and he ends up being detained under terror laws. This monologue is the most humorous of the four and made an interesting comment on a post-9/11 society where terror is seen around every corner. Detained for 14 days without charge, he is let go, much to his disappointment, having enjoyed the solitary confinement as a space to write. Asif Khan’s performance was once again outstanding and his comic timing excellent as he spoke to the audience about his disappointment of writing a poor novel which trumped the disappointment of being held in a prison cell. The humour was not overdone though, such that the real message of the monologue was not lost – is it right that we can detain innocent people for that long without charge just in case they are not innocent?
The third monologue was perhaps one that can seem most personal and relevant to us. A young man in Bradford is fascinated by iPhones and equally fascinated by the idea of joining so-called ISIS. Again, the use of eye-contact with the audience to draw us into the story was excellent and we began to see that poverty and the inability to afford luxuries such as a smartphone can lead to people seeking an alternative life, a life where you have all you need even if it is with a terrorist organisation. The juxtaposition between the young man who wants to carry an AK47 and drive a tank with the same young man who looks after his Granddad and accompanies him to the mosque provided a reminder that there is always more to the story than we see and whilst it doesn’t attempt to justify terrorism, it encourages you to see beyond the rhetoric to the people beneath the masks.
The fourth monologue also involved the Israel-Palestine conflict bringing the show full circle. This time it was told from an American-Israeli perspective to provide a complete contrast to the first. Whilst there were still elements of the earlier humour and intensity of earlier monologues this one had slightly less impact than the previous monologues, possibly because of the change in perspective. Although there is no doubt the character’s life has been shaped by the conflict, perhaps the distance between him and the physical war made his problems seem somewhat trivial when compared with the other monologues. The final words though: “This is going to be ugly”- served as an excellent way of summarising all four stories, and leaving the audience with food for thought.
Review by Emily Diver
Love, Bombs & Apples is the hilarious and poignant new play from award-winning playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak (Baghdad Wedding, The Prophet) – a tale of four men, each from different parts of the globe, all experiencing a moment of revelation.
A Palestinian actor learns there is more to English girls than pure sex appeal. A Pakistani-born terror suspect figures out what is wrong with his first novel. A British youth suspects all is not what it seems with his object of desire. A New Yorker asks his girlfriend for a sexual favour at the worst possible time.
Following a sold-out first run at Arcola last year, Asif Khan returns to play all four roles.
31st May to 25th June 2016