How do young British Muslims become radicalised? It’s a question that is on countless lips at the moment, whether politicians, charities, academics, newsreaders, or just people in the pub, and one that no one seems able to answer. Organisation Quilliam, set up to combat extremism, have produced Deadly Dialogues in response to this issue. Despite the weighty questions that it grapples with, this production remains a beautiful theatrical piece, poetic and exciting as well as allowing the audience to consider radicalisation.
The script, written by Quilliam Artistic Director Nazish Khan, is beautifully formed. Tying together prose and verse, it tells the individual dialogues in an elevated style that still feels natural. The structure of the piece is equally well controlled, with each individual tale interlocking with the others, rather than having them separate. While this can cause confusion at some points, when it succeeds it is excellent. Each of the four multi-rolling actors segues effortlessly between characters, narratives, and voices, dealing maturely with a text that can be unyielding. Director Jessica Lazar should be commended for the way that each story feels as important as others – with so much going on here, it would be perhaps too easy for some to fall behind, and yet this is never allowed to happen.
The production also looks beautiful. The set is simple but effective, with a tiled floor on a raised block (avoiding the usual Fringe problem of seats further back unable to see floor work) and hanging drapes used in a multitude of ways – as bindings, as screens onto which shadows are projected, and simply as tabs actors can wait behind. The movement is impeccably choreographed, and the space functions well as the backdrop to a number of locations, Dartford and Daesh created equally convincingly.
Perhaps where the production really does fall down, though, is the necessary restraints the Fringe places on a piece of this nature. With multiple storylines of a delicate nature, an hour doesn’t feel quite long enough for an audience to completely engage with each of them. As soon as we feel close to a storyline, necessity dictates that we must spin away from it. I would love to see this play given the time to develop each story further, and give us more insight into every plot the company has taken such care to tell.