Written by Stephanie Silver and directed by Calum Robshaw Our Big Love Story explores the impact of the July 7th London bombings on five people from the capital.
Friends Destiny, Anjum, Katie and Jack are four teenagers growing up in noughties London, tentatively exploring their newly discovered sexuality; Destiny can’t stop thinking about Anjum, Anjum really wants Destiny, Jack wants Katie but respects her too much and doesn’t want to treat her like the guys treat the girls in porn – his dad brought him up better than that, and Katie likes Jack but doesn’t know if he has even noticed her. We are introduced to the four early on and their genuine youthful energy and excellent comedy timing carries us through the scene setting with laughs aplenty and cringes galore as we recognise our own past behaviours in these budding adults.
Intersecting these jovial scenes are monologues from the Teacher, a practising muslim, London born and raised. His call to prayer at the top of the show, battling to be heard over the sounds of the London underground is an eerie establisher and a beautiful metaphor, suggesting how the pressures and pace of contemporary life can interfere and stand in the way of a person’s faith.
We are just growing to know a little more about each character when *boom* – literally, 7/7 happens.
The relationships between the teenagers are suddenly skewed and seen in a different light, Destiny can no longer trust Anjum, Anjum just wants Destiny to look at her the way she did before the attack, Katie wants to be there for Jack but with Jack’s father killed in the blast Jack is no longer sure where he’s heading and what he wants his life to be, and as for that muslim teacher that lives next door, how dare he continue living when Jack’s dad died?
Silver’s script is lively and detailed and presents five intriguing characters and a very topical and important storyline. Robshaw’s performance direction seems assured, bringing out lovely work from his actors, but he could pay a little more attention to the staging; with the majority of the play being performed to one side of a three sided audience it felt as though it had perhaps been directed for a different – end on – space and simply dropped into the intimate thrust space at The Hope.
It is the strength of the performances that make this such a moving piece. Naina Kholi as Anjum delivers a beautifully nuanced performance, her first tentative relationship snatched away as she is victim to an increasing amount of hate simply because of the colour of her skin, we can feel the pain as she describes how she stands in the shower and tries to wash the brown away. Emilia Marshall Lovsey’s naive Katie, lost in the middle of it all, trying to do whats best for those around her, is a lovely study of adolescent innocence in a time of betrayal and confusion. Alex Britt’s journey from a confident teenage boy trying to emulate his father, to a confused and angry young man with a dozen eggs and a vendetta against the muslim man next door is lovely to watch. The youthful energy and almost hyperactive mannerisms slowly fade away, his tempo slows and he seems to age very quickly in a short space of time. His delivery of Silver’s text is assured and varied, never letting the audience off the hook.
Osman Baig as the muslim next door takes us on a very different story, one from carefree practicing muslim to a man suffering from PTSD that has become a stranger to his wife and abandoned his faith. Baig gives a stark and haunting performance, describing in horrific detail the events of the bombing and still trying to find the little girl from the platform and her father in the red shirt. His emotional commitment and articulate delivery make it all the more moving, and help to string together some of the more uneven sections of the writing.
The most captivating performance of the night came from Holly Ashman as Destiny, both hilarious and heartbreaking, making Destiny both loveable and utterly dislikeable as she journeys from confident millennial teenager to a confused, EDL supporting shell of her former self.
As all the storylines merge at the play’s dramatic climax the strong ensemble pull us through and leave us with plenty of food for thought; ruminating on how much those terrorist attacks have affected everyone, in so many different ways. The piece finishes with what feels almost like a plea for civility and understanding. Something that seems in short supply across the world at present.
Until 7th April