The best works of art make you feel something — and leave you wanting more.
OUR BIG LOVE STORY does exactly that.
Inspired by the horrific events of the London 7/7 bombings, it offers an unflinching appraisal of modern British society.
If you’re easily offended, it’s not for you; Tooting playwright Stephanie Silver punctuates her script with bad language and political incorrectness throughout.
But this play, which runs at The Hope Theatre in Islington from March 20 until April 7, works brilliantly for those prepared to confront weighty issues through theatre.
It opens to the familiar sounds of the tube doors’ piercing tones as they open and close.
Straight away, we’re in a place we all know and this helps because of the production’s minimal staging which means a certain level of imagination is required on the viewer’s part.
Then, Osman Baig (‘The Teacher’) emits a guttural call to prayer, ominous and haunting in its delivery.
Baig’s foreboding sense of doom, exacerbated by his impressive vocal strength, sets the play up for a tragi-comic rollercoaster ride through lives that intertwine in a way reminiscent of Guy Ritchie films.
The play uses interlocking lives to explore tensions between its protagonists’ conflicting world views.
The result is a powerful piece of theatre, which communicates visceral and gritty themes, but with a light-hearted edge that provides much-needed relief at points.
In intermingled scenes, two very different love stories are told in the context of horrific terrorism events.
Silver revealed she’d written the play after the 2017 Westminster bridge attack.
“I got inspired over the years because so many terrible things had happened,” she said.
One of the play’s central love stories concerns two young girls: Destiny (Holly Ashman) and Anjum (Naina Kohli) who, held back by prescribed societal norms of race and sexuality, find themselves unable to express their feelings for each other.
Destiny’s father, we are told, is an EDL member who would not look favourably on his daughter’s desired relationship with an Asian girl.
The second love story involves Jack (Alex Britt), who struggles to reconcile his love for Katie (Emelia Marshall Lovsey).
Katie, on her mother’s advice, wants to cherish her virginity, which brands her ‘frigid’.
Jack’s latent obsession with porn manifests in a hilarious scene, peppered with erotic moaning and groaning from the cast’s female leads.
Wholly relatable, it had the audience in stiches.
While the love stories play out, Baig’s ‘The Teacher’ delivers impassioned monologues of his traumatic experience of travelling on the Piccadilly Line on 7 July 2005.
At one point, he describes human flesh hanging from the place he was resting his hand.
The imagery is stark and hard-hitting.
Silver does well, here, to convey the often overlooked human angle of a tragic situation.
Her story tells of the power of change from within, and the ability to overcome the racial stereotypes we all loathe to admit we hold.
Speaking to SW Londoner, Silver said: “It’s a really contemporary piece of theatre that could actually branch a wide demographic of people.
“For any young Muslim that comes to see it, hopefully they’ll be able to identify themselves within it.”
The show’s conclusion is nothing short of heart wrenching: all credit to each actor on genuinely moving performances, laced with emotion.
It’s not often you come away from a show and think, ‘that’s really hit the nail on the head.’
Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wasn’t moved, in some way, by this performance.
Overall, Silver’s script addresses some serious issues, yet maintains an element of humour which helps keep the audience engaged.
The show is succinct and punchy, benefiting from a short runtime and no interval.
Sometimes, the best things come in small packages.
Of that, OUR BIG LOVE STORY is proof.