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The Boy at the Back of the Class

March 19th - March 23rd

 

A Children’s Theatre Partnership and Rose Theatre production

The Boy at the Back of the Class

Based on the book by Onjali Q. Raúf

Adapted for the stage by Nick Ahad

Directed by Monique Touko

There used to be an empty chair at the back of the class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it. He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

After learning that he has fled his own war-torn country, Ahmet’s classmates have ‘The Greatest Idea in the World’ – a magnificent plan to reunite Ahmet with his family. An unexpected and often hilarious adventure follows, all topped off with a terrific twist.

Told from a child’s perspective, balancing heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class highlights the power of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense and reminds us that everyone needs a place to call home.

‘A lovely, warm-hearted celebration of courage and friendship.’ The Guardian

‘This is a beautiful, open-hearted debut that should help children be the best they can be and realise the power of kindness.’ Book Trust

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes (including interval)

 

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan


Ages 7+

Details

Start:
March 19th
End:
March 23rd
Event Categories:
, ,

Venue

Festival Theatre
Grange Road
Malvern, WR14 3HB

Other

Price:
Wed & Thurs: All Seats £16.80
Tues 7pm & Sat 2pm: £29.12, £26.88, £24.64, £22.40 & £20.16
Fri & Sat 7pm: £31.36, £29.12, £26.88, £24.64 & £22.40
£2 concessions (over 60s /unwaged)
Under 16s £11.20
Members discounts apply
Price includes 12% booking fee
Show Times:
Tuesday 19th - Saturday 23rd March '24
Tuesday at 7pm
Wednesday & Thursday at 10.30am & 2pm
Friday at 7pm Saturday at 2pm & 7pm

Event Reviews

  • Showtime! John Phillpott

    In an ever-darkening world ravaged by war, famine and the mass displacement of human populations, glimmers of hope in the global gloom would appear to be in short supply.

    But this play, based on the novel by Onjali Rauf, and adapted for the stage by Nick Ahad, provides a flicker of hope as the children in the story band together to not only fight injustice, but by doing so, help to create a slightly better planet in a small corner of Britain.

    Ahmet, played with a degree of poignancy that wrenches rather than tugs at the heartstrings by Farshid Rokey, is a Kurdish refugee who has fled his war-torn home in Syria.

    We first meet him as he starts, with understandably great trepidation, school in London. The audience’s empathy kicks in right from the start – after all, everyone remembers that gruelling first day, don’t we?

    With a subject matter as contentious as this, the colours are very soon firmly nailed to the mast, as the obligatory racist in the form of Brendan (Joe McNamara) makes his ugly presence felt.

    A while later, he morphs into a similarly disposed character, only this time in adult form, where he’s aided and abetted by Zoe Zak. Both are ranting cliches, the staccato, harsh vowels of Cockney speech adding to the sense of alienated communities struggling to come to terms with the massive changes that have been imposed upon them.

    Zak sheds the crust of her chrysalis yet again to burst forth as Mr Irons, who appears more like a boys’ grammar school master from the late 1950s, complete with mortarboard and gown, rather than a teacher in a modern-day London sink estate comp.

    So where did he come from? Some time-warped parallel universe presumably.

    Priya Davdra is entirely believable as beleaguered teacher Mrs Khan, whose sole function seems to be more about crowd control rather than imparting knowledge to her charges.

    Then, at the end of the school day, she also switches roles, shedding her day skin and becoming a kind of mumsie figure, with welcoming mumsie bosom and no doubt smelling ever-so delicately of Imperial Leather soap and rose water.

    Sasha Desouza-Willock as Alexa is our storyteller, and what a compelling, blisteringly superb job she makes of it, narrating Ahmet’s progress from a minority of one to becoming the toast of his schoolmates.

    Yet it is Farshid Rokey who commands our attention from start to finish, skilfully playing the confused and frightened young boy who finds himself in a world that at the beginning might as well be the surface of the Moon.

    The question of hundreds of people weekly crossing the English Channel in small boats is undeniably one of the major problems of our times, and one that will have to eventually be solved by adults.

    But what the writers have done here is to create a very heart-warming story that solely concerns those who have no say whatsoever in the matter, the voiceless children who are swept up in the affairs of grown-ups.

    The Boy at the Back of the Class is truly a fairy tale of our times, and like all good fairy tales, has a happy ending. And on a purely human level, devoid of the political divides, this play works very well indeed.

    really good show thanks

  • The View from the Back of the Stalls

    A truly thought-provoking tale for our times presenting a different perspective

    It is, it has to be said, quite unusual to have a play written and performed from the viewpoint of a a group of children but that is exactly what happens in Nick Ahad's adaptation of Onjali Q. Rauf's The Boy At The Back Of The Class. The story plays out on a simple but multi-functional set which represents, amongst other things, the sea, the classroom, a gymnasium and the gates of Buckingham Palace (!).

    The class in question is a bunch of 9 year-olds who suddenly find themselves with an empty seat at the back of the class. This is to be where newly-arrived Ahmet, a "filthy refugee boy" according to the class bully Brendan (Joe McNamara), is to sit when their teacher introduces him. Ahmet is indeed a refugee, from Syria and speaks no English, only Kurdish. So it is down to the rest of the class to attempt to welcome him into this new world, always curious about his back story.

    Fortunately, he has little Alexa (Sasha Desouza-Willock) on his side as she finds that she has some things in common with him, in spite of the language barrier. Along with her small group of friends, football is key to them all forming a bond and their decision to try and help him find his missing parents. To do this, they need a project and amusingly, when the exuberant American Tom (Gordon Millar) proposes the name "The A-Team", the rest complain, wanting something they at least have heard of as they are "only nine"! The name sticks, however, but the backing track to their activities is then Mission Impossible, leading to some very well-choreographed moves on stage. The football game with the invisible ball is equally as entertaining.

    One surprising element is that whilst within the confines of the school, Ahmet's language remains impenetrable to the others, at the end of the first act, he comes to the front of the stage, breaking the fourth wall and declares to the audience "you understand me", cleverly making the audience part of the journey. From then on, his broken English allows his tale to be told to the class and at the start of the second act, half a dozen big drawings on stage tell his sad story.

    Whilst the outcome of the story, involving none other than Queen Elizabeth II (voiced by Dame Vanessa Redgrave) may be somewhat unlikely, the route there is full of humour, pathos and kids-being-kids, making the audience genuinely care for his plight. Ahmet (superbly played by Farshid Rokey who himself hails from Afghanistan) presents a totally believable shy, fish out of water 9 year old whilst the rest of the kids have to unsurprisingly deal with adults who are not always sympathetic to their cause (but who ultimately get their comeuppance). In some cases, the same actors play both the children and the adults.

    It is a story which resonates today perhaps even more strongly that when it was first written. It is a story which unashamedly presents a political issue directly to its young target audience and, whilst it make be criticised by some for doing that, it is only through their young, more innocent eyes, that the true horror of what innocent refugee children go through can be challenged and changed. A child is a child whatever his circumstances. Giving adults the opportunity to see what kids see may change their minds too.

  • Sarah

    What an amazing stage adaptation of a wonderful book. My 16 year son and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would highly recommend this production to anyone who would like their children or young adult to experience excellent theatre, exploring such an important topic.

  • Malvern Observer - Euan Rose

    'The Boy at the Back of the Class’ which opened last night at Malvern is a faithful adaptation for the stage by Nick Ahad of Onjali Q.

    Raúf’s award-winning children’s novel. It is, I suggest, a play that all Year 5 and Year 6 students should have the opportunity to experience.

    There is an empty chair at the back of an English school classroom – life changes for the young students when it is given to a new boy -Ahmet – who is a nine-year-old traumatized refugee from war torn Syria. He only speaks Kurdish, which makes any integration with the rest of the class very difficult, so he remains silent. Inevitably Ahmet is bullied by some, not necessarily because he is a refugee but because he is different and therefore a target.

    Thankfully, there is a gang of four chums who make it their mission firstly to befriend him. which happens through the magic of kicking a football and then later, when they discover his sister died in the sea and he has no idea where his parents are or indeed if they are still alive, they set out to find them.

    That, in a nutshell is the bones behind the plot and the flesh on the bones involves children playing hookey to go to London and give the Queen (the book was written whilst Queen Elizabeth II was still on the throne) a letter asking her to to find them.

    The beauty of this simple tale is that it succeeds on so many levels. It is a morality play of how easy it is to be blind to the suffering of others – it’s a shocking indictment of our war torn world and it’s a ripping yarn that brings tears of sadness and joy in equal dollops.

    Monique Touko directs with care and passion and applies it at times with the subtlety of a fine art sable but is not afraid to use a crude paste brush when it needs it. Touko tugs all the right strings at all the right moments.

    Lily Arnold gives us a simple but practical set which comprises the back wall of the school gymnasium – this in turn becomes anything it needs to be from classrooms to homes, from street markets to the gates of Buckingham Palace.

    It has hoops and frames from which the energetic class swing, climb and cavort. There is also an outer, light box frame, which changes colour and mood on the journey.

    The lighting design by Ryan Day is equally, simple and effective, with snap black outs and mood changes.

    Alexa – who acts as our narrator until Ahmet finds his voice – is played engagingly by Sasha Desouza-Willock. She brings a modern day Famous Five feel to the party, as do her chums, Josie (Petra Joan-Athene), Michael (Abdul-Malik Janneh) and Tom (Gordon Millar).

    Farshid Rokey is a smoldering powerhouse as Ahmet the refugee boy at the back of the class. He has haunting eyes that suck you in, a killer smile and when he erupts: he takes no prisoners.

    Special shout out to Joe McNamara as Brendan the bully. His thought process jumps the curtain line and had me thinking about his untold back story.

    Success is believing the adult actors we see are actually nine and ten years old and this happens in spades. Without exception all of the cast give and keep giving from curtain up to walkdown.

    ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ is an unmissable triumph for all the family – try and grab a seat this week at Malvern Theatres before it finishes on Saturday, March 23.

  • Stage Talk - Tony Clarke

    Onjali Rauf’s debut novel, published in 2018, is an award-winning and heartwarming tale of friendship. It explores the increasingly prescient and pressing theme of the refugee crisis, seen through the eyes of a nine year-old narrator, Alexa, who is herself still coming to terms with the death of her father some years before. Given the huge popularity of the novel, it is perhaps no surprise that the Children’s Theatre Partnership, in collaboration with Rose Theatre, have elected to transfer it to the stage, following their previous successful adaptations of celebrated children’s books such as “Holes”, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” and “The Jungle Book”. And as with all their previous productions seen by this reviewer, it is a convincing transition from page to stage.

    The story, cleverly adapted by Nick Ahad under the direction of Monique Touko, centres on Alexa (the impressive and engaging Sasha Desouza-Willock) and her close-knit group of friends – Michael, Josie and Tom (played with energy and enthusiasm by Abdul-Malik Janneh, Petra Joan-Athene and Gordon Millar respectively) – who are joined by a new arrival at the back of their Year 5 class: Ahmet, a refugee who has fled war in Syria with his family, all of whom are now missing. As their friendships develop, Alexa discovers the painful truth about Ahmet’s background, and goes to extraordinary lengths to reunite him with his family.

    This is a talented ensemble cast of young adults who successfully pull off the difficult trick of convincingly playing a group of nine year-olds, accurately capturing their language and mannerisms, but also their innocence and naïveté. Most of the cast show admirable versatility in playing multiple roles, with Zoe Zak particularly effective as she switches between five different characters. The play juxtaposes the exuberance and innocence of childhood with a more poignant glimpse into the harsh realities of adult life beyond the school gates. Rauf’s novel, and this production too, challenges society’s prejudices and intolerance towards refugees through the odious bully Brendan, as well as the morally reprehensible and anachronistic teacher Mr Irons, but does so in a way which is appropriate for a school-aged audience, which this show clearly targets. And yet adults will find plenty to admire in this production too, not least because the play pointedly touches on contemporary political concerns: Sunak’s “Stop the Boats” rhetoric is cleverly and deliberately referenced here.

    Technically, the production makes effective use of a versatile multi-purpose stage set, with a school gym climbing frame imaginatively reconfigured by designer Lily Arnold to suggest a variety of the novel’s settings. A single piece of blue fabric is used to impressive effect in the opening of both acts, cleverly conveying Ahmet’s perilous journey, so often played out these days in countless news reports where boatloads of doomed and desperate refugees have become mere statistics. There are some slick and well-choreographed dance and movement routines too, and the whole production is full of the exuberance and energy which have become the CTP’s hallmarks.

    Ultimately this is a touching story about friendship, loss and kindness in a post-Brexit world which feels increasingly hostile; a story which celebrates our differences as strengths rather than weaknesses; a story in which voiceless refugees are finally given a voice; a story which illustrates, as Touko suggests, how “humanity can go a very long way”. It is a story for our times, and one we should all watch.

  • Worcestershire What's On

    Having fled war-torn Syria, Ahmet now sits on a chair at the back of the same class as Alexa and her friends. A refugee separated from his family and speaking only Kurdish, he’s feeling lonely, traumatised, frightened and lost...

    This Children’s Theatre Partnership & Rose Theatre production is a new stage adaptation by Nick Ahad of Onjali Q Rauf’s multi-award-winning children’s novel of the same name. Told from the perspective of nine year olds, the play is aimed at children aged seven and over, but there is plenty to be enjoyed by audience members of all ages.

    Young adults play the roles of the children, brilliantly portraying childhood high jinxes and behaviours whilst at the same time trying to understand the adult world they will one day join. They also transition to adult roles with ease, making this small cast seem much bigger.

    The stage setting is simple, consisting of numerous items of gym apparatus. The multifunctional equipment is played on by the children, and across the course of the play, as Ahmet’s story unfolds, it morphs into a playground, Alexa’s home, the staff-room door, a bus, the walls of Buckingham Palace and a TV screen.
    Farshid Rokey’s performance as the young Ahmet is endearingly believable and at times heartbreaking.

    Despite being welcomed by most of the children, who attempt to bridge the language gap through playing football and sharing sweets, Ahmet faces his fair share of discrimination. This comes in the form of disdain and aggression from the school bully, bigoted parents passing on their prejudices (“Filthy refugee kids” says one parent at the school gate) and an ignorant older teacher.

    Alexa (Sasha Desouza-Willock) narrates until Ahmet learns to speak English. At the end of act one, Ahmed addresses the audience as the only people who understand him. Because of this, we (the audience) are able to see the world through his eyes rather than as onlookers. The effect of this is to humanise the refugee experience, making it easier to see those fleeing their country and looking for a safe haven as individuals with families, friends, careers and aspirations, rather than simply as faceless participants in the ‘humanitarian crisis’ we hear about almost daily on the news.

    In the second act, Ahmet tells his story of escaping the bombing in Syria, using drawings from his sketchbook that are hung up on the climbing frame. Learning that the young boy has been separated from his family, Alexa and her friends set out to reunite them. This takes the youngsters on an adventure to Buckingham Palace to enlist the help of the Queen.

    Ahmet’s journey is moving and amusing, on the face of it focusing on the importance of family bonds and relationships, rather than the complicated political issue of immigration and the casualties of countries at war.

    Telling a remarkable story and exploring the power of friendship and kindness, The Boy At The Back Of The Class encourages us all to show compassion towards fellow human-beings who are in mortal danger and need our help. It also challenges the younger generation not simply to accept that injustices are a part of life, but instead to realise that they can actively work towards changing things for the better.

    There were a lot of children in the audience last night, and they seemed to be completely engaged with the play. Chatting during the interval with an eleven-year-old boy known to my theatre companion, I discovered that he had read the book, considered the stage version to be an accurate adaptation, was really enjoying the play and would most definitely be recommending it to his friends.

    Quite right, too...

    Topical and entertaining, absorbing and thought-provoking, imaginatively told and impressively presented, this is a truly wonderful work of theatre that’s well worth an evening of anybody’s time.

  • Birmingham Live - Alison Brinkworth

    The Boy at the Back of the Class children's book became a family favourite telling the difficult story of a war-torn Syrian refugee child through the perspective of a fellow school pupil. This heart-warming tale has now been adapted to stage for the first time and its world-premiere tour has reached the Midlands.

    I caught this new stage adaptation of the multi award-winning and best-selling children’s book in Worcestershire. Malvern Theatres is the closest it comes to Birmingham for now. It will reach Wolverhampton Grand Theatre later from April 16 to 20.

    It's all about new boy Ahmet, who is only nine-years-old but sparks the interest of his class mates for not smiling or talking. Similar to how The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas tackled Auschwitz through a child's eyes, this story doesn't shy away from tough language and issues, which was hard to hear as an adult.

    The Boy at the Back of the Class novel by Onjali Q. Raúf won acclaim in 2019 including the Blue Peter Book Award and Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. This is the first time it has been adapted for the theatre, by Nick Ahad in this new production by Rose Theatre and Children’s Theatre Partnership.

    I must admit, my eyes started streaming early on when the school bully repeats what he's heard at home, calling Ahmet 'filthy' and other unsavoury words. Pitched just right for children aged seven and over - but also appealing to adults - it's a clever way of explaining issues like refugees, what the Stop The Boats political campaign is all about and war to young people.

    With conflicts raging in the Ukraine against Russia and Palastinians in Gaza fleeing their homes amid the Israel-Hamas War, this may be set a few years' ago about Syria but it's strikingly relevant to current times.

    Don't get me wrong, this isn't a dark, miserable play. It's told in a fun, exciting way about children's adventures that keep the mood light. There's characters with varying attitudes to refugees but at its heart, it's optimistic and heart-warming, with even the belated Queen part of the story- voiced by acting legend Dame Vanessa Redgrave.

    A small team of talented actors, led by Sasha Desouza-Willock as Alexa, play numerous roles including children at the school where Ahmet appears at the back of class. They are naturally intrigued and when they find out he had to flee war and was split from his family, a group of friends set off an adventure to try and reunite them.

    With Mission Impossible music and quirky comedy, they head off on endearing journeys including finding somewhere to buy a pomegranate and going to Buckingham Palace to get a letter to the Queen.

    Director Monique Touko particularly excels in the scene where Ahmet explains how he has reached British shores. It uses a background of cartoon images and is beautifully choreographed and powerful. Yet more weeping from me.

    Don't worry about children watching the show as the many around me were all dealing with it just fine. No tears from them. After all, the essence of this story is about friendship and kindness.

    It's the older, more jaded of us who know how cruel the world can be that are hit hard by issues affecting the plight and attitudes towards refugees once they reach a safe haven.

    It may be a children's story but this will strike a chord with all ages. It was good to see Malvern Theatres packed out with families and schoolchildren for its opening night last night.

    The Boy at the Back of the Class is a powerful, wonderfully-adapted tale for our time. I was a blubbering mess by the end of it, but I also left the theatre with my heart full of hope. It's uplifting yet brutally honest and is a play that everyone, whatever age, should see.

  • A View from Behind the Arras - Jane Lush

    Looking back to our childhood days we probably all recognise or have been that boy/ girl at the back of the class who doesn’t quite fit in.

    This is a moving and powerful play told from a child’s perspective which highlights the power of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

    The play opens with a striking dance sequence depicting a class of nine-year-olds who are approaching double figures. There is an empty chair at the back of the class.

    First, we hear Alexa’s story. Played energetically by Sasha Desouza-Willock with the earnest enthusiasm of a nine-year-old, she talks about being different because her dad has died. When a new boy Ahmet played beautifully by Farshid Rokey comes to occupy the seat at the back of the class Alexa is the first to try to make friends with him.

    She encourages her friends, the rest of the A team to find out more about Ahmet and make him feel welcome. Josie is played with strong energy by Petra Joan-Athene, who also plays a journalist.

    Gordon Miller plays the American dare devil with gusto and Michael, a typical teacher’s pet, is played effectively by Abdul-Malek Janneh who also plays the taxi driver.

    When class teacher Mrs Khan strongly played by Priya Davdra, who also plays Alexa’s mother, encourages Ahmet to tell the class his story, the A team are even more determined to help him. He is a refugee from Syria who has had to leave his family behind to seek safety in England. Later we hear that his sister and cat died in the attempt to escape.

    Only Brendan the bully, played powerfully by Joe McNamara fails to be moved by Ahmet’s story and makes his life worse, calling him a filthy refugee and disrupting their football game.

    When the A team hear that the borders are soon closing and no more refugees will be allowed through, they know they must devise a plan to get Ahmet reunited with his mother and father, which involves writing to the queen and even embarking on a daring visit to Buckingham palace. Megan Grech plays the firm but compassionate head teacher and Adam Seridji plays Mr Hart. Ryan Rajan Mal plays the off-stage swing.

    Clarissa, a 9-year-old obsessed with ballet, is played by Zoe Zak who also plays several other strong roles including Mrs Grimsby and Mr Irons an older and rather unpleasant teacher who also picks on Ahmet.

    Directed by Monique Touko and adapted by Nick Ahad this powerful stage production from The Children's Theatre Partnership and the Rose Theatre, Kingston upon Thames is based on the award winning novel by Onjali Q. Rauf.

    The strong message in this touching play, aimed at children from the age of seven, is to be the best they can and to realise the power of kindness.

  • Fairy Powered Productions

    Witnessing the horrific news report of a family drowning at sea whilst fleeing war-torn Syria, Onjali Q. Raúf got busy founding ORAT (O’s Refugee Aid Team) as well as writing the novel The Boy At The Back Of The Class. I didn’t know the work before tonight but judging by the buzz in the foyer I had the feeling I’d been missing out on an important work. How right I was!

    The opening set the tone perfectly by evoking the refugee’s challenge in overcoming the sea’s violence (and other impenetrable barriers) depicted in visceral fashion through music and dance. The adaptation (by Nick Ahad) wastes no time in introducing our main characters and straight away I knew this play had an empathetic loveliness at its heart.

    In her introduction Alexa (Sasha Desouza-Willock) told us about losing her dad: “…I’m OK with not being OK” she said. A lesson to us all which drew my first tear of the evening. I found her portrayal to be thoroughly likable and engaging, with just the right mix of wide eyed wonder and indignation at the world that a 9 year old would have. Farshid Rokey as Ahmet (the eponymous boy) was also outstanding. He showed enormous emotional range and, like his character, he took us on a real journey.

    Frankly, all the cast were amazing. I wish I had triple the word count to give each a congratulatory paragraph, all perfectly capturing those essential childlike qualities. The actor’s all doubled as adults too, with great elan. I’ll briefly mention Abdul-Malik Janneh as Stan the Taxi Man being particularly enjoyable. Also Zoe Zak and Joe McNamara in their multitudinous roles, having real fun as the nasties (Brendan the Bully and Mr Irons) but were charming too as Mr and Mrs Marbles. Gordon Millar’s Frank was hilarious, wasn’t he? Naaaaahh! Trust me, you’ll understand when you see the play. Petra Joan-Athene as Josie (a joyous ball of unstoppable energy), Adam Seridji as Mr Hart (aptly named), Ryan Rajan Mal (as off-stage swing) and Megan Grech as Mrs Sanders each gave their fabulous all and rounded out this perfect casting. Superb use of music and sound effects (from composer Giles Thomas) and an inventive set that evoked a grand scale and multiple, diverse locations (thanks to Set Designer Lily Arnold) also added enormously to the whole experience.

    An inspirational play with a simple yet vital message – that kindness is a powerful force which should be deployed often and widely. This message came most prominently, loud and clear, from two of the most important adult characters in the piece; Alexa’s mum and her teacher Mrs Khan, both played by Priya Davdra in a powerhouse performance that drew its quiet authority from her commanding stage presence and beautiful acting. Wonderful!

    There’s never been a more relevant social piece for our times. I can’t be the only one who thought it would be a good idea if this were to be played daily at the Houses of Parliament. Thank you to everyone in this fantastic production for introducing me to such a wonderful show. A show that you will carry with you long after you leave the theatre.

  • Reviews Gate - Hannah Phillips

    “A beautiful, heartfelt and hopeful production.”

    There used to be an empty chair at the back of the class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it. He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

    Says 9-year-old Alexa, fiercely played by Sasha Desouza-Willcock, our storyteller and leader of the school kid ensemble as she introduces us to Ahmet, a 9-year-old refugee from Syria. I was sitting next to my 9-year-old twin boys in this play adapted for stage by Nick Ahad, based on the novel by Onjali Q. Raúf. They were sucking their favourite sweets and laughing loudly as they watched the adult actors energetically play child characters and create school chaos in a way that resonated for them.

    We are reminded of the individual human story in the atrocities of war and displacement, the children and the trauma behind the headlines. The adults are mostly portrayed as the bullies who pass down anti-immigrant rhetoric to their children. The portrayal of the next generation is hopeful, the young activists are mostly moving from a place of kindness, friendship and love, facilitated by their teacher, Mrs Khan played convincingly by Priya Davdra. In a time when we find ourselves in a global crisis, the play ironically comments, “we have to hope the people in charge know what they are doing”.

    There are beautiful visual moments in this heartfelt production, the parachuting of blue sea fabric which actors run and dive under enhanced by impactful lighting (Ryan Day), atmospheric sound design and energetic composition (Giles Thomas). Playful direction by Monique Touko is further enabled by an imaginative and versatile school gym set design by Lily Arnold which transforms into Alexa’s home and Buckingham Palace with ease.

    The Boy at the Back of the Class, Ahmet, is played both beautifully and silently in the first act by Farshid Rokey. We feel his pain with every facial expression made and in the second act, when he finds his voice, he reminds us to listen.

    I held my boys’ hands tighter as I wiped away my tears and we listened.


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