Review: Love, Bombs and Apples, Arcola Theatre

Sexual fantasies, fictional bombs and racial hatred are just some of the themes explored in Love, Bombs & Apples. Written by Hassan Abdulrazzak and directed by Rosamunde Hutt, this play is a collection of four short pieces, performed as a one-man-show by Asif Khan. Through a compilation of intimate and human tales, Love Bombs and Apples takes us from the East to the West and from the Apple Store in Bradford to the Big Apple that is New York, divulging through comedy what it means to be a Muslim man in the twenty-first century.

Abdulrazzak’s writing and Khan’s strong characterisations present us with four distinct personas, each lovably funny and burdened with a distinct driving force, dream or desire. Opening in Palestine, Khan plays an innocent and passionate actor desperate for sex – which we’re told is hard to come across as a young single man in Ramallah. What unravels is an absurdly funny sexual encounter with a British girl, to an audience of jeering Israeli soldiers. Khan’s second role as the yet-to-be-published Pakistani author Sajid AAA, is arguably the funniest. Khan’s camp portrayal of his character combined with Abdulrazzak’s sharp writing is an explosive combination; the sketch climaxes as the prison guard dismisses Sajid’s novel as a terror manual, wittily proclaiming: “Characters are supposed to have depth…. If Isis ran IKEA, this would be their catalogue”, in a spout of harsh but honest feedback, denied to the author by publishers.

Khan then becomes a Bradford youth, humorously likening the mosque to the Apple store, and listening to adverts to listening to sermons. Through on-the-edge comedy, based around a character who believes a Westfield shopping centre has been built in Bradford to distract young men from leaving to follow Jihadism, Abdulrazzak explores feelings in a community little heard from in mainstream media. For the final playlet, Khan flips the coin and takes on the role of a young Jewish man in New York, torn between his overtly Zionist father and girlfriend who is an activist for peace in Gaza. This last piece is distinctly modern, with credit to James Hesford’s sound design for using the soundtracks for Mad Men and Orange is the New Black to date it. This piece is moving in moments, such as Sarah’s dream of souls rising from the Nazi camps to march with Palestinians in mourning over their collective loss of homelands. The ending, however, could have been slightly stronger; one last interaction between the couple after Isaac’s boxing session could have granted the play a more final feeling and affirmed its position as a comedy.

Khan engrosses us in the diverse stories of the four characters, switching between accents and personalities competently, whilst performing each story flawlessly. Abdulrazzak is a comically attune, excellent playwright who’s captivating tales hook an audience from start to finish. Hutt – a superb director – creates the atmosphere for each story, heightening the humour through her staging decisions and making the play flow neatly and purposefully as a whole.

 

Love, Bombs & Apples is playing the Arcola Theatre until 25 June 2016. For more information and tickets, see Arcola Theatre website.