Different is Dangerous is a devised piece of verbatim theatre from Fadia Qaraman and Nyla Levy who together form the theatre company Two’s Company. With a simple setting of four chairs and two headscarves, plus the actors, we hear from a cross section of Asian, Muslim and British voices from across the city and multi-cultural environs of Leeds.
The actors recreate opinions (from their own interviews) about how it is to exist in an Asian community today and also through the voices of older people, historically. This exploration of multi-cultural life and the challenges of ethnic diversity is cleverly brought about by the audience hearing the premise and some snatches of interviews prior to the actors arrival on stage and immediately after the actors conclude this absorbing fifty minute piece of theatre. Some of the naturalistic monologues are penned by the actor’s themselves but are so skilfully interlaced into the piece that one would never guess.
… absorbing fifty minute piece of theatre.
Both Quaraman and Levy are totally engaging as they morph into various characters. Each wear headsets that presumably convey the original voices to each actor. The particular phrasing and vocal nuances of each taped individual then comes across as very authentic in the acting of. In a sense this lessening of the potential for enlarged character theatrics brings across a more truthful and natural depiction of real life individuals. In a studio based environment this works very well. One wonders how such a piece would work on the larger stage. Potentially the characteristics and the vocal aspects would need to be bigger and then the danger would be an unwanted slide into cultural parody.
Different is Dangerous proves to be a moving, sympathetic and varied examination of unprovoked attacks, hijabs, segregation, white attitudes, multi-cultural boyfriends, equality, reactions to atrocities, and a degree of fear and ignorance of cultures living side by side. The killing of soldier Lee Rigby, 7/11 and 7/7 are talked about by various characters; the including of which is a brave move by the actor writers. Shining through is a positive thread of insistence from many of the characters that essentially, regardless of race, we are all the same human beings with the same innate desires for a peaceful life and that the Muslim faith is a loving one and totally against any terrorist activities.
In a show that also examines attitudes and fears of immigration and the immigrants themselves it is fascinating that the performers Fadia Qaraman is half Indian/half Canadian and Nyla Levy is half Palestinian/ half Finnish.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe.