Our Big Love Story

Stephanie Silver
Glass Half Full
Hope Theatre

Katie (Emelia Marshall Lovsey), Destiny (Holly Ashman) and Jack (Alex Britt) Credit: Jennifer Evans
Anjum (Naina Kohli) Credit: Jennifer Evans
Katie (Emelia Marshall Lovsey), Anjum (Naina Kohli) Credit: Jennifer Evans

In July 2005, bombs on the London underground and a bus killed fifty-two and injured hundreds. There was a subsequent short-term upsurge in hate crimes, particularly against Muslims, with London police reporting a six-fold increase compared to the same period in 2004.

Stephanie Silver’s Our Big Love Story looks at the impact on five characters: a teacher who survived the bomb on the Piccadilly line and four school-age teenagers.

The teacher, a Muslim, opens the play with a call to Morning Prayer that grows increasingly angry in tone. He is suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has flashbacks to the explosion, recalls the dead and obsessively worries that a small girl he saw nearby in the tube train may have died with the rest. The trauma makes it difficult to work and is a trigger for a crisis of faith.

We glimpse something of the teenager’s preoccupation with relationships and sex just prior to the bombings.

Destiny (Holly Ashman) tries to begin a relationship with Anjum (Naina Kohli), a Hindu whom she describes as being “brown like a Mars bar”.

Jack (Alex Britt) and Katie (Emelia Marshall Lovsey) are unsure about the way they should express their interest in each other.

The bombings kill Jack’s father and enrage further Destiny’s racist father. At a drunken house party, the four decide to visit the home of the Muslim character where they attack him viciously.

The play raises important issues, from the effects of political trauma as a consequence of bombings to the way in which the radicalisation to the racist right can also be a threat to the community.

The show is optimistic, liberal and responsible, but it never takes off dramatically. There is no real tension, a very limited display of clashing viewpoints, weak dialogue and characters that lack depth.

The teenagers talk clumsily about sex, provide the occasional dash of comedy, dance a bit and get worked up about the Muslim they don’t even know.

The suddenness with which they become a racist mob is never clearly explained and unfortunately fits that old conservative notion of children having an impressionability that can lead them anywhere if they are not tightly controlled.

The Muslim, who is never even given a name, passively speaks a series of monologues to illustrate the symptoms of PTSD, passively takes his beating and then passively returns to his faith, forgiving everyone with the words, “we should just focus on healing ourselves.”

The play raises issues that need addressing but the superficial way it does this and the sentimental drift through melodrama must limit the extent to which it can engage an audience.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna