Writte by Selina Fillinger, Faceless at the Park Theatre puts the complexity of Muslim identity under scrutiny – both the ‘cradle to grave’ kind and the ‘new convert’ kind. In an ordinary suburb of Chicago a lonely teenager, recently bereaved, finds a friend and ultimately a supposed fiancé on the internet – a jihadist who inspires her to convert and persuades the sixteen year old to give up her comfortable life.
Fiona, played by Susie Glenn, is arrested by the authorities and defended in court by a Jewish lawyer, with a female Muslim lawyer as the prosecuting counsel. Fillinger explores issues of gender, class status and faith as she spotlights the prejudices found both in the legal system and the community at large. Director, Prav MJ, places most of the action out front upon a bare set with a range of projected slides suggesting the locations. This was successful in a fairly basic way but alongside the playing of the scenes directly to the audience, it all became slightly wearing with a lack of emotional engagement at times and often an overly functional feel. Playing to and addressing the audience of course worked well for the courtroom scenes, but I felt slightly cheated by not being asked to vote at the end given that we were clearly the jury. The exploration of the relationship between daughters and fathers could have been interesting but was a shallow glimpse of familial troubles. What was more interesting was the idea of covering up both physically and emotionally. Terrorism has no single face, no individual identity. As the Muslim lawyer points out, with fear and loathing so prevalent in society, you may want to disappear but to endure is essential.
With snappy lighting changes, short scenes slid seamlessly from one to another. Scott Bader in particular had a powerful thrusting vocal and physical style and gave a suitably well crafted performance, bringing humour and pathos at times. However, not all scenes were as convincing as his. Issues of the hijab, faith and work were thrashed out in a strong performance from Paige Round, giving us a picture of what being an American is and how loyalties to our flag, our gods and country are being obscured and redefined.