'Guantanamo Boy' or 'Brown is the new black'

'Guantanamo Boy', adaptation by Dominic Hingorani 
Stratford Circus, Wednesday 31st January 2011
This is a slightly extended version of my Time Out review


Fifteen-year-old Muslim Khalid lives a typical teenage life in Rochdale. He is obsessed with computer games, a huge football fan and head over heels-in-lust. But when he returns to Pakistan during the aftermath of 9/11, he is labelled a terrorist and carted off to Guantanamo Bay - which has, shockingly, held up to 60 juveniles.

Director Dominic Hingorani, who also adapts Anna Perera's original novel, goes some way to capturing the dizzying terror experienced by young captives, but it is his depiction of Khalid's home-life that really impresses. The dynamic between young Khalid (Hamza Jeetooa) and his mother (Rina Fatania) is warm but never over-sentimental. Fatania is a powerful presence throughout - first as the henpecking mother and later as Khalid's fiercely protective cellmate.

Unfortunately, the rest of the prison-based characters feel clichéd. An icy CIA interrogator never convinces ('Give me the code!') and a Yankee cell mate, who wistfully describes his family as 'soul food', rankles.

The plot loses clarity as it picks up pace. The stage, too, feels over-cluttered. Rachana Jadhav's design, which includes projection screens and sliding cell doors, is ambitious but too busy for this modest space. Yet the intensity returns when an absorbing fantasy sequence flashes Khalid's vibrantly realised home life, before our eyes.

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