Extremism at Theatre Peckham intensely explores issues confronting today’s diverse youth

By Emily Hemsley
November 18 2019, 15.35

In a condensed 40-minute thought-provoking classroom experience, audiences will be left deeply moved and fearful for the harsh realities vulnerable young people face in a challenging modern society.

From the very beginning of Anders Lustgarten’s intense play, audiences are immersed into the height of political tension after schoolboy Jamal is taken by police for radicalisation after his teacher reported him to ‘Prevent’, a Government anti-terrorism program.

As audience members walk through the doors of Theatre Peckham and take their seats circling the stage, you feel a touch of nostalgia as you are transported into a realistic dimly-lit classroom as the set, designed by Emma Wee, is filled with tables and chairs donated by local schools.

The young actors dressed in school uniforms interact with the audience, immersing them into the production, creating the care-free sense of teen-spirit which is harshly interpreted by the chilling sound of a police siren.

With the unnerved students left alone in the suffocating environment with nothing more than their differing opinions, tensions begin to bubble and boil over until they explode.

Directed by Suzann McLean, Extremism realistically brings to the surface issues young people face today including friendship, peer-pressure, racism, religion, fear, stereotypes, suspicion and radicalisation.

As the bold young players passionately battle each other with their unapologetic opinions and question stereotypical perceptions, the play reveals the harsh truth that prejudice can thrive in the supposedly most safeguarded of places.

Being so immersed in the play, the audience feels they are apart of the conversation unfolding before them but helplessly unable to stop the rising tension between the student’s differences.

The height of the tension occurred when a student ripped off a Muslim student’s hijab who was then bullied to apologise for acts of terrorism.

The heartbreaking scene shocked the audience, leaving some with tears in their eyes, terrified for what young people are subjected to.

Playing at Theatre Peckham, a hub of diversity, the production creates inclusive opportunities for young talent. Featuring Denneil Dunbar, Asha Hassan, Nansi Love, Na’eemah N’diaye, Julien Pitchell, Hollie Regan, Marlo Rye, Kingsley Sowole, Nadezhda Stoycheva and Tyrell Weekes-Harper.

The ten skilled young actor’s performances were astounding and realistic, receiving a much-deserved standing ovation. They have also been trained as peer facilitators and mentors which is portrayed through their convincing exploration into youth issues.

Conversation Stations were also set up to allow audiences to reflect and discuss the themes presented in the play.

Time seems to slip away in the short but highly-charged 40-minute performance as you become engulfed in the conversation; when the play reached it’s the conclusion and the lights brightened, a wave of relief washed over me, appreciative to be able to walk away from the harsh realities.

Audiences leave burdened with unanswered questions and a whirlwind of pondering thoughts but nevertheless, with a sense of gratification.

First performed at the National Theatre’s Connections in 2017, Extremism is playing at Theatre Peckham from 5 – 23 November 2019. For more information and tickets visit: https://lineupnow.com/event/extremism-2

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