The Black Album

Written by Hanif Kureishi
Directed by Jatinder Verma
Tara Arts and the National Theatre
Liverpool Playhouse (27th October - 31st October 2009)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The expression 'using a sledgehammer to crack a nut' came to mind while watching this play, adapted from his own novel by Hanif Kureishi.

Endless political, religious and cultural messages were earnestly trotted out throughout by an assorted bunch of 'radical' characters. After a while it all became boring to listen to and watch. Another problem is that most of the characters are stereotypes - the middle class left wing college lecturer, embracing the cause of the 'maligned', the preaching anti-racists, the leather-clad punk who thinks he is different, ad nauseam.

The story, set in 1989 - the year the fatwa was declared against Salman Rushdie after his book The Satanic Verses was published - revolves around the young British born Pakistani Sahid Hasan (Jonathan Bonnici) who is trying to come to terms with his cultural identity after moving from Kent to study in London. He soon begins to straddle two distinct cultures at opposite ends of the scale - the hedonistic lifestyle of raves and drugs and militant Islam.

This is effectively conveyed by an imaginative stage set, which included pulsating video projections flashing signs such as Greed Is Good, together with electro pop and Acid House music. But overall the play proved to be a wasted opportunity to bring very important political messages - the dominant themes of 1989 are even more so now - to the theatre.

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