Review: How Does ISIS Recruit Teenagers? Another World Shows

Another World at National Theatre ★★★★★

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 99 months ago

Last Updated 17 April 2016

Review: How Does ISIS Recruit Teenagers? Another World Shows Another World at National Theatre 5
© Tristram Kenton

What makes a European teenager leave the safety of their home and join the world's most violent regime to pursue Jihad in Syria?

Another World, written by Gillian Slovo based on an idea by director Nicolas Kent, sets out to consider the answer to this and other questions around the continued presence of ISIS in our lives.

Drawing together a diverse range of voices, the play is based on interviews with political commentators, academics, those working to prevent radicalisation, ordinary young British Muslims and the mothers of three Belgian teenagers who joined ISIS.

The result is a detailed and informative commentary on the situation in Syria, essential viewing for anybody who wants to understand more about the threat that ISIS poses.

The dialogue is interspersed with images and footage from Raqqa displayed on TV screens arranged in the shape of Syria. The figure of Islamic State Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Nabil Elouahabi) appears several times on a raised platform to make inflammatory statements.

It's frightening to hear the violent rhetoric at the heart of the regime but it puts the rest of the conversation in context.

Actors represent a range of experts in a panel discussion who give their differing views on the causes and effects of radicalisation. Naturalistic, understated performances across the board allow the thoughts and experiences of the original interviewees to predominate.

Voices include ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg (Phaldut Sharma) and Shiraz Mahar (Garry Pillai), a Kings Research Fellow in radicalisation. Both talk from first hand experience  of the huge range of views and reactions to terrorism across the world.

A great strength of the production is how the many knowledgeable, academic voices cut through the daily media noise to present the true picture of where ISIS comes from, who they are and what they want.

The inclusion of anonymous British Muslim teenagers (played by Lara Sawalha, Farshid Rokey, Ronak Patani and Zara Azam) in the production is a really nice touch. The engaged and charming young people speak articulately about prejudice, government policy and their own fears for the future.

The strongest moments in Another World come from the heart-rending accounts of three Belgian mothers (Nathalie Armin, Sirine Saba and Penny Layden) whose children ran away to Syria. Their accounts of loss, unconditional love and fear for their kids is unbearably sad.

Kent's sensitive, intelligent and multi-layered enquiry gives few answers to the complex problems facing us in the wake of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. However, it does present a rare chance to learn more away from the glare of media headlines.

Another World is on at National Theatre, Upper Ground SE1 9PX, until 7 May. Tickets £15-£25. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.