Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy – 4 Stars


Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 27th April 2018


“carefully interweaves the light-hearted tension of the British North/South divide with global issues”


Following an incredibly successful run at this year’s Vault Festival, Bismillah! is a Wound Up Theatre production that was originally staged in 2015 and is now currently at Islington’s Pleasance Theatre. Whilst the political backdrop of the play is perhaps a little dated, its themes remain incredibly current and important.

The show, dubbed a ‘tragicomedy’, begins with a British soldier (Matthew Greenhough) who is imprisoned and tied to a pole, screaming out the lyrics to Queen’s I Want to Break Free. He is soon joined by his ISIS captor (Eliot Liburd) who he assumes doesn’t understand him. The captor speaks his first lines in a thick London accent, surprising the solider. They continue to converse, switching between seemingly futile topics comparing their upbringing ‘up North’ and ‘down South.’ This includes a hilarious argument about which fried chicken is better, KFC or Chicken Cottage? They bond over their shared experiences of working at J. D. Wetherspoon and their personal coming-of-age struggles. The audience, at moments, is starkly reminded of the context wherein the play is taking place when the conversation shifts towards the differences in Western and Eastern values.

The writing of Bismillah! carefully interweaves the light-hearted tension of the British North/South divide with global issues, linking it to the disenfranchising of young people within various communities. It cleverly brings a human side to a story and setting which is exclusively told through a sensationalist lens from mainstream media outlets.

It’s quite possible that many would deem such a topic “brave” to tackle onstage but displaying some of the ways in which people from particular societal groups are marginalised in British society shouldn’t be something theatre-makers and audiences alike shy away from. It proves a stark reminder to the National Youth Theatre’s 2015 production Homegrown, a play about the radicalisation of young people in the UK and was cancelled for reasons that remain unclear to this day. Bismillah! is a beautiful start to beginning the conversation in the most British of ways; comically and sarcastically with a serious undertone.


Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

Photography by Sofi Berenger



Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy

Pleasance Theatre until 13th May



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