I'm Muslamic Don't Panic
Bobak Champion (in collaboration with Lizi Patch and James Fogarty)
Tobacco Factory Theatres
Brought up in an Iranian culture in Bristol, Bobak Champion takes us on a light-hearted journey through moments of his childhood, life in Bristol and his visits to Iran.
Bobak contrasts the negative impressions from the media of AK47-wielding Muslim terrorists with his charming Farsi-speaking alter ego, offering an alternative image of Persian culture, imagining beautiful purring cats and rolling out exquisite carpets.
Bobak refers to the racism he encountered when growing up, but most emphasis is given to his experiences of what the cultures have in common: enjoying the hospitality of his friends’ homes when he was growing up and the enormity of the displays of hospitality from his extended family when he visits Iran. More pertinently, his thrill of sharing his passions with his friends at home and the unexpected discovery of groups of hip-hop enthusiasts in Iran.
Critically, the material here is too thin to make much of a political statement, but the performer’s personal appeal and physical energy makes this an engaging evening nevertheless. Even the references to bigotry in either culture, either to the sexism in his mother’s home country or the fascism in the extremes of western society, point more to the similarities than differences in both cultures.
Bobak is a thoroughly likeable performer, magnified by his obvious local appeal. He morphs smoothly between his Persian alter ego and his younger self, or to mimicking racist swagger in his local ‘Brizzle’ pub. But it is his physical presence which makes his performance unique. A dance graduate, he fluidly moves from Persian dance forms to breakdance and hip-hop moves. He is joined on stage in the later part of the evening with two more local hip-hop dance artists.
The light-hearted finale allows Bobak to share his way of combatting these extremes. Either make fun of them—so he shoots ray guns at distorted recordings of racist messages—or stand in solidarity to confront them—so he invites the audience to join him recording the message, “Zan Zendegee Azadee” (Woman Life Freedom), which he posted online. A well-timed protest in the week which marks a year since the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in Iran for not wearing er hijab correctly.
Reviewer: Joan Phillips