Ten Nights at Bush Theatre
Beyond a few interesting moments and a likeable main character, Ten Nights at Bush Theatre doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.
The new show by writer Shahid Iqbal Khan follows Yasser when he decides to take part in itikaf, fasting in the mosque for the last ten nights of Ramadan. It’s all about introspection and self-discovery as Yasser goes on a journey, learning more about himself in the process.
Ten Nights feels like it doesn’t quite achieve what it’s aiming for. There is a sprinkling of jokes but none are really that funny, with a number of them simply hoping that the audience finds swearing hilarious.
The larger narrative is similarly somewhat lacking. It’s a fairly simple tale of “man sees problems with everyone else but finally looks inside himself to discover he’s the one with a problem” – a solid basis for the story, but the twist doesn’t feel like it quite fits. The audience spends eight of the ten “nights” getting to know this character, and while there are clues that something is wrong, the reveal is less an “aha!” moment of clarity and more a “Wait, what? Does that make sense?”. There’s a line to ride between giving the audience enough that they recognise this new information in the character and omitting enough so they don’t see it coming. Unfortunately Ten Nights doesn’t quite make it to the line.
The show is otherwise a little bit dull. Parts of it are interesting if one doesn’t know all that much about Ramadan and itikaf as it offers insight into our friends’ and neighbours’ worlds. But beyond that, it’s a one-man show that keeps roughly the same tempo for 80 minutes straight, resulting in monotony.
Leading man Zaqi Ismail makes a fine Yasser (as well as putting on voices to represent the supporting characters), but he isn’t really challenged too much by the role so presumably has a lot more to show.
Ultimately, Ten Nights is all just a bit “meh”. While it’s not completely without merit, many will find it boring. But kudos to Bush Theatre for going the extra mile to make this show accessible to more audiences with BSL throughout, plus English and Arabic subtitles projected on a screen behind the performers.
Ten Nights is at Bush Theatre from 19th October until 6th November 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.