PROFILE: Matthew Greenhough | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A ‘loud-mouthed working-class Northerner with a lot to say’, Matthew Greenhough wrote his first play Delusions of Adequacy during his third year at Northumbria Uni. He wanted to write and perform comedy, and this sitcom-cum-Greek-tragedy gave him the perfect platform to explore his own experiences as a school leaver on the dole alongside wider social and political issues through comedy.

His theatre company Wound Up Theatre became a voice for the disenfranchised, socially alienated and economically disadvantaged young people in the UK. Back in 2015, radicalisation was becoming a reality and Matt saw comedy as the strongest way to open up the conversation. “You can discuss anything through comedy,” he explains, “life is a balance of comedy and tragedy. Humour makes unpalatable things more palatable.”

In his new show, Bismillah!, which is at Live Theatre on Saturday 29th September, two young British men find themselves sharing a cell: Dean from Leeds, a member of the British Army and Danny from London, a member of Islamic State. The name of the play itself unites; it’s the first word of the Qur’an and a line in Queen’s iconic Bohemian Rhapsody, which Dean believes is the best song of all time. It’s not an easy situation to explore in comedy without causing offence, but that didn’t slow Matt down. “The play never makes light of the situation or the young men’s realities and beliefs. The humour comes from opinions on normal human things. These lads are both human. Bismillah! reflects on how two ordinary lads growing up in Britain ended up where they are now.”

The positive feedback he’s received for Bismillah! from all quarters – from soldiers, the UK Muslim community, academics conducting research on extremism, stage reviewers – shows he got it right. British journalist Sean Langan, who was held hostage by the Taliban for 12 weeks in 2008, praised Bismillah! as reflecting his own experience of imprisonment.

Whilst the world has changed since writing Bismillah! in 2015, Matt believes that it’s more relevant today than ever. “This kind of recruitment is still happening but in different ways. More so than ever, I’d say. The world is becoming an angry place. Bismillah! has a strong message for our society today.”

Bismillah! (An ISIS Tragicomedy) is at Live Theatre, Newcastle on Saturday 29th September.

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