Trojan Horse, directed by Matt Woodhead, leaves us wanting more. Underneath the classical sounds of the tabla merging into a contemporary dance beat, we are promised a play with depth and nuance. A promise that is not delivered. As the pulsating rhythm fades, we enter a classroom just as an Urdu exam has finished. It sets out to make the audience feel uncomfortable and guilty for islamophobia and to highlight the PREVENT agenda in the UK. Set in Alum Rock in Birmingham, this verbatim production examines over 200 interviews with those who were involved in the 2014 Trojan Horse Inquiry. It also looks at the injustices faced by Muslim teachers in the educational sector, as well as the ways in which the Government was complicit in institutional racism during this event.
Created by Helen Monks and Woodhead, Trojan Horse journeys through a political debate that seems to lack theatrical integrity. LUNG Theatre take an angry and passionate stance against the PREVENT agenda, and aim to give a platform to voices that are underrepresented. Yet, the story feeds into the victim narrative that Muslims are often painted with. The arc of a queer Muslim was forced into the script, but rather than giving her character a chance to develop, her story becomes the catalyst for change in someone else. They “decide to care about gay rights when they can use it as a weapon.”, one of the cast muses. Unfortunately this appears to be a strong, self referential phrase. The play reduces religious Muslims to homophobes, effectively ignoring the reality of queer, practising Muslims.
It is clear that there is some vision present in the direction of the play, but it isn’t well executed. The timing is inconsistent, and the vast amounts of props and scene changes seem to clutter the script and distract us from being drawn into the story.
The strength of the actors carries the show. Their dexterity and convincing accents are almost enough to make one forget about the problems within the stagecraft. While there are some notable one liners and a diligent use of language, at one hour and 10 minutes in length, the piece is much too long.
Trojan Horse will do well as it is an issue-based piece of work. However, it should be noted that the audience was primarily white. The show was made for exactly this kind of audience – the loud and angry voices of the Muslims feeds into white guilt. In addition, it is watchable because it is educational, not because it is a piece of art. Perhaps this play would be better served as a creative report.