The Infidel, Stratford Theatre Royal. Review by Julia Pascal.
This is a wickedly funny satire on ‘race’ and religion which appears to deliver stereotypes but, at it core, has a deeper interrogation of British society. The conceit is the old chestnut of mistaken identity. A London Muslim taxi driver, Mahmud Nasir, discovers he is a Jew adoped by a Muslim family. This happens just as his son is to marry Ji-Ji (short for Jihad), the daughter of an Islamic fundamentalist. David Baddiel’s film of the same title has been adapted for the stage and the result is fascinating.
Stratford East was Joan Littlewood’s People’s Theatre and this is certainly people’s theatre of today. The Infidel is vulgar, it is provocative, it is vaudeville, it is anarchic and it is funny. Baddiel writes and co-directs with the theatre’s Artistic Director Kerry Michael, and the style is end- of -the -pier polular vaudeville Britishness which explores today’s serious issues of Muslim-Jewish relations.
Nobody is spared. Jewish racism and Islamic antisemitism is in your face. There is a Muslim trying to be a Jew at a barmitzvah telling terrible jokes. There are Muslim women sexing it up in burkas. There are jokes about circumcision and images of penises. It is outrageous. It is a provocative evening and tells us that theatre is still the place where taboos can be broken.
The cast is a great ensemble and the quality of the production is high. Stratford’s publicity tells us that this is a comedy about race but this production shows us that ‘race’ does not exist. It is a 19th century concept which needs challenging. This outspoken text surely does that and makes the audience leave arguing with one another. What a tribute.
Julia Pascal © October 2014.