Review: 'Combustion' At Tara Arts Theatre

An Intelligent Crackling Script Takes a Good Look at the Problems That Arise When Two Cultures Don't Understand Each Other

There’s no room for political correctness or mealy mouthed platitudes in this terrific, thought-provoking, challenging and eminently watchable play as a young Muslim and a white supremacist go head to head in a battle to try to understand what makes each other tick. At the same time they begin to learn more about themselves and how to deal with their own personal demons.

It’s set in Bradford, and opens on the last day of Ramadan in Shaz’s garage. Shaz (Beruce Khan) is a successful businessman employing Ali (Rez Kempton) and Faisal (Mitesh Sony). Tomorrow is Eid, a holy day in Islam, and the English Defence League (EDL) led by Andy (Nigel Hastings), is organising a march to protest against the grooming of young white girls by Pakistani men.  

To counter it, Ali's sister, feisty university student Samina (Shireen Farkhoy) has set up a group called Bradford4Peace to march against the EDL. This appals Ali as Samina's independent behaviour may jeopardise his impending, arranged marriage to a girl from a nice family. 

So both marches take place and of course there's trouble, which brings Andy into the mix. The ensuing rows between him and the four youngsters are shocking, no punches are pulled here, but, and this is the thing, Andy has a soft under belly, his reason for organising the march goes much deeper than stated protest.

It's an intelligent script that crackles along, liberally scattered with English obscenities, InshAllahs and innits. When they're not rowing with the Andy, the boys, articulate and questioning, discuss all sorts of things. Getting their mothers to find them the right woman to marry is a recurring topic, but they also include Miley Cyrus, Sharia law, 9/11, democracy, and if Princess Diana was killed because she was dating a Muslim. The plot twists and turns, full of surprises, some of them nice, some of them nasty, but all relevant to the subject. 

To be fair, it does get a bit schmaltzy at the end, but there's so much good about it, I can forgive it that.

The design is minimalist and clever; very simple with a few tables of various sizes which double up as cars when the action is in the garage. At the back there's a big mesh screen where the cast go to change. Sometimes they stand behind peering through it as though caged. A metaphor, perhaps, for all the prejudices that hold them back when it comes to understanding other peoples' lives.

By Penny Flood

Combustion is at the Tara Arts Theatre,   356 Garratt Lane, SW18 4ES until the 27th May.

Weds 17 May - Sat 27 May. 7.30pm + 2.30 Thurs 25 & 3pm Sat 20 & 27 matinees

To book 020 8333 4457

May 22, 2017

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Combustion is at the Tara Arts Theatre to May 27. To book 020 8333 4457