Writer: Hassan Abdulrazzak
Director: Rosamunde Hutt
Reviewer: Lizz Clark
Palestine, Pakistan, Bradford, and New York are the settings for the four monologues that make up Love, Bombs and Apples. Along with the widespread settings are a disparate bunch of narrators, from a mild-mannered author to a privileged lobbyist. As the sole performer, Asif Khan has his work cut out: he must showcase four characters and their worlds in the space of one ninety-minute performance.
He has some help from Mila Sanders’ versatile design, which makes the most of its four costume modifications and features an ambiguous yet detailed set. The stage is scattered with the debris of four lives – a vase of flowers, three mismatched chairs, a bookcase – and some blank wall space is left which goes on to represent both the West Bank Barrier and the inside of a prison cell. Khan pulls out the relevant stuff in the course of each monologue, immediately creating whatever settings are needed.
Writer Hassan Abdulrazzak’s script is full of character and detail, too: each of the four stories has its own style and feel, from the opening hook to the final jab. An ambitious actor looks for casual sex in Palestine. A misunderstood writer ends up reworking his novel while detained in Britain. A Bradford yob is torn between two visions of himself. And a dogmatic lobbyist describes a breaking-point in his relationship against the backdrop of a boxing gym.
It’s so varied, and each segment is so densely packed with dramatic flair, that it holds the audience perhaps even more firmly in its thrall than a single story would. Director Rosamunde Hutt has given full shape to each monologue so that they don’t just rise and fall through the jokes and plot points, but are bursting with the vitality of their characters throughout. As well as being everything from embarrassed-tittering to laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a dramatic exploration of four men from across the world.
Khan has a mammoth task in representing these fully-fleshed characters, and he doesn’t disappoint. He skilfully gives each character not just his own accent, but a whole vocal style. The Pakistani author who reflects on his time in prison with a quaint nasal nostalgia is as deftly performed as the playboy Palestinian actor who can’t stop thinking about sex. Khan mercurially shifts his posture, too, to physically embody their differences. The Bradford youth is captured particularly well, stooping over with hands in hoodie pockets and swaggering towards a shop, but also (im)patiently walking his ageing grandfather to the Mosque.
Abdulrazzak’s vivid writing and Khan’s versatile performance combine to create a show that reflects on masculinity, particularly for men of colour, in its various forms and interpretations. The monologues’ common themes – sex, politics, East versus West, and the clash between personal and political – are meaty and can be thought-provoking. But while these ideas lie beneath the surface, there’s a thick layer of characterful comedy that smoothes things over and leaves us with smiles on our faces.
Reviewed on 30th March | Image: Contributed