Avaes Mohammad’s double bill looks at two different kinds of extremism in modern Britain: Muslim terrorism and working-class fascism. They are both set around the 7/7 bombings and can stand alone but have overlapping characters and together they create a powerful mosaic of extremism in Britain. The “plays are about two people who don’t feel they belong any more, a young Muslim and a white working-class guy. Neither has been allowed to feel part of the mainstream makeup of the country. That is where the extremism comes from on both sides.” explains Avaes Mohammad.
In Hurling Rubble at the Sun, T is cooking up the final ingredients for his mission, listening to Tupac, the sounds of the preparation carrying, amplified in the silent room. He gets his instructions on his mobile: Kings Cross, Platform 7 Northern Line 08:50. He plans to spend his last evening first with his mother and later with his girlfriend. As his plans to spread death and mayhem hit home, he tries to reach out to his mother and add to the meaning of their final evening. Their temperamental relationship, her ignorance of his plans and inability to pick up the signs add layers to the drama. His is a female dominated existence, his final decision is taken also in the presence of a woman, a friendly stranger on the bus, whose consequent embarrassment at his mumblings, push him to his final violent act.
Even though Mrs Malik character is in equal measure touching and enigmatic, T’s feels underdeveloped. He is neither devout nor angry enough to justify his radicalisation, even though we get some answers later in the second play. This obscurity and the fact that some of the scenes between mother and son are repetitive make it harder for it to exist independently of the second play and take away from its appeal.
Hurling Rubble at the Moon, the more powerful and complete of the two, is set around Seth, a young white man, who gets embroiled in racial violence and campaigns for the BNP. A cocky teenager that lacks education and any real skills, on the one hand rants because he feels cheated out of a job from his “Paki” manager and on the other hangs out with and even dates a Muslim girl at some point. The arrival of his absentee father, a tattoo-totting, racist football hooligan, introduces him to the world of violence and white fascism and he becomes a flag-waving campaigner for BNP. Despite his gradual emersion to racial violence, he holds on to vestiges of humanity throughout the play that keep the audience guessing, and the violent finale is a punch to the stomach.
Mohammad chooses to humanise his main heroes instead of portraying them as raving monsters; and he does not involve the people or the rhetoric that recruited them. Their interaction with their respective parents adds depth and makes both pieces more engaging. It also offers insight to the transformation of racial strife in Britain. What for the parents has always been a fight to be fought at the grass-roots with a mostly local impact, for the sons it has become a phenomenon stemming from international politics, where actions aim to impact as widely as possible.
In both pieces the actors inhabited their roles with realistic intensity. From the spine-chilling Seth, to the naïve and confused T; from the bitter and mercurial Mrs Malik to Dean’s sociopathic tendencies, to Mary’s and Major’s path to adulthood, both plays were brought expertly to life by the excellent performances. The shared set of stacked detritus added to the atmosphere of resignation and disconnection.
A current and engaging double bill that shows extremism under a realistic, everyday even light.