If you run a theatre company called The Louises and are looking for a partner org to collaborate with, may I draw your attention to The Thelmas? They’re female-led, dedicated to the empowerment of women, addressing the equality imbalance yada yada yada… And best of all they’re intersectional, so they should fold up nice and small for easy storage.
Student politics aside, they’ve actually come up with a very good show here. Rumi is a young Muslim woman not having much luck in love, so she agrees to give halal speed dating a try to keep her family off her back. The trouble is, Muslim background or not she’s not even slightly religious (“coconut” being a term of abuse for someone’s who’s brown on the outside but supposedly white on the inside) so it’s no surprise she meets someone more compatible as she recovers in the pub afterwards. Simon’s from a Catholic background, though not really religious either so he doesn’t have a problem with nominally converting to Islam so they can be together openly, no longer having to hide from numerous “aunties” whenever they’re in public. But before long, Simon is enjoying the sense of belonging and certainty his new religion provides, bringing Rumi a whole new set of problems.
As Rumi, Kuran Dohil is enormously charismatic, believable and above all funny, and I was astonished to read this is her professional stage debut. Jimmy Carter gets better as the play goes on, stronger as the fanatical Said than the drifting, uncommitted Simon. Praise too to Tibu Fortes, excellent as both the imam of the local mosque and Rumi’s rather camp inner voice – “It’ll explode in our face, and not in a good way”.
Director Madelaine Moore makes good use of a minimalist but versatile set from Baśka Wesolowska. The production zips along, in a way that 90 minute shows with no interval so often don’t, and if there aren’t all that many laugh-out-loud moments, you will at least be smiling almost constantly at the script’s gentle humour – that is, until it moves skillfully into much darker territory. Kudos also to writer Guleraana Mir for making clear that Simon’s behaviour is not in any sense what Islam requires of a husband, in a cultural climate where such misunderstandings are all too commonplace.