STAGE REVIEW: The Believers Are But Brothers @ Northern Stage (14.6.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Audience participation is always a worry, isn’t it? Asked on entry to download WhatsApp ahead of the performance I visibly (audibly, probably) winced. Sitting queasily waiting for an iPhone-powered grope, I found it hard to settle in for Javaad Alipoor’s award-winning play, a unique vision loosely based on three young British Muslim men enticed via online propaganda into a life with ISIS.

Then, the ping in my pocket broke the tension as the group chat ignited and I found myself dragged into a furious debate about terrorism, masculinity, gamers, colonialism and crisis in the west. I shouldn’t have worried.

Set in that dark strata of the internet given increasingly public face by the dual rise of the alt-right and online extremism, The Believers Are But Brothers wrapped us up in an unfolding narrative of isolation-birthed radicalisation played out in real time; the stark reality of bearing witness to a young man sitting perma-bathed in the glow of a screen, his self-loathing fuelled by a perceived denial of sex, money, power and masculinity itself.

This isn’t a play. It’s a tense conversation at 3am. A friend not acting like they should. A worrying ping in your pocket. It’s an ambitious, fragmented work by a fascinating new voice that dares us to engage with the unengageable, forcing the realisation that we are all participants in a society undergoing seismic change. We’re all bathed in that glow, whether we like it or not.

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