Shades at the Royal Court, review
Alia Bano's Shades at the Royal Court, about a Muslim heroine seeking
Mr Right in London, is an entertaining depiction of Islamic
Stephanie Street and Matthew Needham in Shades at
the Royal Court
You don't go to the Royal Court expecting a romantic comedy, but under the admirable, open-minded directorship of Dominic Cooke, anything is possible these days, and Shades turns out to be something
both special and unexpected – a Muslim Bridget Jones's Diary.
You rarely see the word Islamic these days without fundamentalist following hard behind. Alia Bano's delightful play, presented as part of the Court's Young Writers Festival, offers a much-needed reminder that not all Muslims are followers of Jihadist mullahs.
Set in present-day London, our heroine seeking Mr Right is Sabrina, a British university-educated events organiser whose family hails from the North-West Frontier in Pakistan. She shares a flat with two gay male friends (one of them a Muslim) and doesn't wear hijab.
We first encounter her at a Muslim speed-dating evening (I certainly had no idea such events existed) where Sab, who already hears the ticking of the biological clock, is hoping to find the man of her dreams, or at least a man with a brain and a pulse. And in the course of the play she finds that she has to choose between the plausible, superficially sophisticated Ali, and the more devout and traditional Reza.
Sabrina's gay friend Zain delivers some provocative rants about those he calls the fundos – not least his view that Islamic extremists are largely driven to murderous violence by thwarted sexuality. But in the character of Reza, Alia Bano draws a much more sympathetic picture of a devout Muslim, who has no time for violence and wishes to be regarded as both English and a follower of Islam.
Such analysis, however, makes the play sound far more solemn than it is. As the characters set about organising a charity fashion show for Gaza, and the devious Ali attempt to put the mockers on burgeoning romance, the play proves delightfully fresh, funny and touching, as well as a genuine eye-opener into the different attitudes of British Muslims.
Nina Raine's lively production, wittily designed by Lucy Osborne on a fashion-show catwalk, can't quite disguise the fact that the plotting is a touch schematic, but the show's breezy humour and generosity of spirit make ample amends.
Stephanie Street gives a delightfully engaging performance as the confused heroine whose attitudes and emotions are constantly challenged, while Amit Shah brings both troubled decency and a lovely touch of sly humour to the role of Reza. There is outstanding support, too, from Navin Chowdhry as Sabrina's outrageous gay friend, from Matthew Needham as his likeable English boyfriend, and from Elyes Gabel as the creepy villain of the piece.
Shades proves a feelgood gem of a rom-com, deftly combining an insider's revealing insight into Islamic Britain with cracking entertainment values.
Tickets: 020 7565 5000
Telegraph Rating: ****
Monday, February 09, 2009
Shades - Review
Something I found thanks to Google Alert :) It's a review for the play featuring Elyes. I don't have much info on it at the moment, but it's an interesting review. Not much mention of Elyes, but worth a read.