Writers: Helen Monk and Matt Woodhead
Director: Matt Woodhead
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
Lung Theatre Company opens the newly refurbished Leeds Playhouse in this much-anticipated production. It is based on the 2014 ‘Trojan horse’ scandal in Birmingham which obtained considerable press coverage and vehement debate. Prompted by a suspect letter that planned the infiltration of Birmingham schools by Muslim extremists. This happened to fit in with the then Minister of Education Michael Gove’s Islamaphobia.
This resulted in a series of inspections attempting to substantiate the validity of the letter and many of the findings of these end up in the play’s verbatim dialogue. Writers Helen Monk and Matt Woodhead manage to sustain a fast pace without losing the audiences attention and suspension of disbelief.
The design is quite sparse, a back projection and tables and chairs demonstrating that sometimes less is more. This is very much an ensemble performance (Mustafa Chaudhry, Qasim Mahmood, Keshini Misha, Komal Amin and Gurkiran Kaur) that allows both young and old to flourish and reveal the nuances of their characters (many take on more than one).
The authenticity of the show may well be down to Professor John Holmwood, one of the expert witnesses in the professional misconduct cases that arose from a government inquiry, who was Academic Advisor for this production.
Despite being essentially an agitprop performance we are given many glimpses into the private lives behind the officialdom of the enquiry. For example, two of the Asian girl students have same sex attraction and are finding it hard to find a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on.
Also, this is by no means conspiracy theory. It is based on hard fact and that adds to the realism that the show presents. Despite being based on events in 2014 there are many resonances with current day educational problems.
Reviewed on 3 October 2019 | Image: Contributed