AIK Productions and Turtle Key Arts
The Lowry, Salford
30 March 2018
With Love, Bombs and Apples we finally get a series of monologues that doesn’t try to copy the classic Talking Heads format but comes close to that standard of quality. Although there is a comedic aspect to each of the monologues there is a political undertone specifically relating to the conflict in the Middle East.
Love in a time of Barriers, the first of the monologues to be written by author Hassan Abdulrazzak that started his partnership with sole performer Asif Khan, is a gentle spoof on the efforts of well-meaning liberals as the seduction of a British NGO worker by a Palestinian actor results in an extreme example of coitus interruptus.
Level 42 is the least political of the monologues as the tedious detail and lack of realistic characters in the magnum opus of a wannabe author results in it being mistaken for a terrorist instruction manual. Yet the hapless writer is so self-deluded as to treat the subsequent interrogation as a form of literary criticism.
The Apple is the shortest of the pieces but does not lack power or perception. The tale of a confused Bradford Muslim teenager who cannot decide between the appeal of consumerism, in the form of a new Apple iPhone, or joining ISIS illustrates how the choice is influenced not by political beliefs or speeches by religious leaders but rather childish fantasies of power and the urge to escape grinding poverty.
Landing Strip, the final piece to be written and the longest, is the most ambitious and tries that bit too hard mixing personal and political relationships, sexual politics and parental influence. The tale of a man who makes an inappropriate request of his girlfriend after their relationship is strained when it becomes apparent her viewpoint clashes with that of his father works because of the quality of the performance and the dark humour but one can sense the effort involved.
Director Rosamunde Hutt stages the pieces as plays rather than monologues. Although Asif Khan addresses the audience direct his speech is that of a conspirator rather than someone talking to himself. Khan chats with patrons, cheerfully flirting with them and drawing them into the stories. Excellent use of is made of the sound designs of James Hesford to set the time and place of the tales in an understated manner.
The acting is of a very high standard; Asif Khan creates four distinct and convincing characters ranging from cocksure actor, self-deluding fantasist, confused teen to conflicted hard man. His vocal performance takes the audience from Bradford to America while his body language shifts from an effete character who may be Obsessive- Compulsive to a brawny boxer.
Although the subject matter might suggest that Love, Bombs and Apples can be appreciated only by an audience with an interest in Middle East politics the irreverent dark humour and a strong performance makes it accessible to all.
Reviewer: David Cunningham