The Believers Are But Brothers at the Bush Theatre
Javaad Alipoor, the writer and narrator of this one-man show about the internet, masculinity and various forms of radicalisation, has clearly done a lot of research. He occasionally references this work himself, since this is the kind of meta-fictional performance where the artist explains his own choices, process and limitations to the audience; but, even if he didn’t, it would be obvious anyway. This piece, which deals with far-right 4chan-dwelling MRAs and young radicalised Muslim men – both subjects that have received ample media attention of late – would be almost impossible to pull off well otherwise. The more topical a subject, the more vital it is that one adds something nuanced and interesting to the conversation.
Alipoor’s work definitely adds to the conversation, not least because it creates a literal conversation in the form of a WhatsApp group that all the audience members are encouraged to join. The performer uses this tool to take audience polls, send memes or insert elements from the play’s three narratives, including messages from an ISIS recruiter or misogynistic death threats from an MRA. Unsurprisingly, what makes it most interesting, however, is what the audience does with it, playing on the brief connection social media can create between total strangers before the play even begins by suggesting an after party or, in one man’s case, inserting a rather furious response to Alipoor’s presentation of GamerGate. As Alipoor himself points out, extreme opinions are more easily offered without our faces attached.
Technology and the dark side of social media are common topics for performance art these days, a trend for which we can probably blame the popularity of Black Mirror, but the fact that Alipoor is so clearly a fan of the internet despite his serious reservations, and familiar with the same sites that right-wing extremists now dominate, means he manages to avoid the trap of being ham-fisted. Criticism is always more effective when it comes from a place of nuance and tenderness, something Alipoor cultivates for both the lawless playgrounds of the internet and the young men who get lost in them. From start to finish, The Believers Are But Brothers is a fascinating piece, alive to the myriad connections between even the most disparate elements of our society and the fragmentation that is slowly destroying it.
Photo: The Other Richard
The Believers Are But Brothers is at the Bus Theatre from 24th January until 10th February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.