Hurling Rubble at the Sun

Avaes Mohammad
Park Theatre and Red Ladder Theatre Company
Park Theatre (200)

Ragevan Vasan as Taufeeq 'T' Sultan

In his room somewhere in Blackburn, Taufeeq ‘T’ Sultan turns on his radio and adds his own voice to it: “I’d rather die, before they attack me” he raps. Equipped with a gas mask, he is making a cocktail of chemicals whose fumes flash into flame when he lights them.

In Hurling Rubble at the Sun, which is playing in repertoire with Hurling Rubble at the Moon (you can see both on the same night), Avaes Mohammad is exploring what makes a British terrorist.

He gets his instructions on his mobile: Kings Cross, Platform 7 Northern Line 08:50. “An army of angels will be deployed for your aid,” he is told, “and you are leading them.” Yes, it is July 2005, but this is an imaginative fiction, not documentary.

When he has all prepared, his backpack filled with explosives, ‘T’ steps into the light and slips back his hood to take a look in the mirror. He is a handsome young man and likable, not a monster. What has brought him to this?

He goes home to his mother’s to eat with her, and there we discover a bit of his background. His mother, his Amma, born in Britain, is immensely proud of her immigrant father. With his own hands, he help build their mosque and was the driving force behind its erection. “Not,” he said, “for people to pray in: they can do that at home, but to show them we are here and to stay.”

But, since the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks, the mosque has become a target but ‘T’ looks to Iraq. “Here they are breaking mosque windows,“ declares T, “but in Iraq they are bombing cities. Here they piss on the walls, but there they are raining down white phosphorus that burns right through to the bone.”

There is more family history touched on: a dad who still doesn’t speak English and his mother’s dream of Tufeeq becoming an Iman and then the play follows ‘T’ to London where, bemused and amazed by the metropolis, his story plays out.

This is a portrait of a young man caught in a dream of “doing something”. It is sensitively played by Ragevan Vasan who gives him an innocent naivety. Bharti Patel, as his mother, presents both the pain and the love that she feels for her son, their relationship encapsulated in what she doesn’t realise is her son saying a last goodbye.

Nicola Duffet plays a well-meaning woman with whom ‘T’ has a crucial encounter, friendly and outgoing but then embarrassed by his behaviour in a realistic picture of how actions can be misinterpreted of response under pressure.

Rod Dixon’s direction sets the realism of the playing against Rhys Jarman’s surreal setting which, like a blitzed building, has walls from which the rest has been ripped away, furniture that forms part of a junk pile, a table that’s a wooden pallet on car tyres. It is a detritus that is matched to the partnering play but is also perhaps the way Taufeeq sees the world around him.

Mohammad’s play doesn’t deal with those who set Tareeq up as an assassin but it does show how our society creates the conditions to make their work easier.

Companion piece Hurling Rubble at the Moon has a white British youth at its centre but it also sets Taufeeq’s story in a wide social background and a longer time frame than the tense two days of this play. While each play can stand alone, they work even better together.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton