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Tale of two friends review by Jane Shields

Two childhood friends both want to be cricketers. Will Salmaan survive religious extremism and disappointment? Written by Masum Raza and directed by M A Haider.

This play was produced and presented by the Oxfordshire Bangladeshi Association and is designed to illustrate the damage violent extremism can cause, not just to an individual but to an entire family and ultimately to a much wider community. Both Thames Valley Police and Oxford City Council partnered the Association in support of the play, which will be shown in schools to encourage debate and to promote a peaceful message to young people.

A Tale of Two Friends focuses on Amir and Salman who both apply and are successful in their applications to a cricket academy in India. Unfortunately Salman’s brother prevents him from going and he is then contacted by a member of their local mosque who attempts to recruit him into violent extremism. The play reaches an emotionally powerful climax and was extremely thought-provoking.

The play was performed in a traditional Bangladeshi theatre format known as Pala (musical storytelling) and was narrated by 4 actors who also played some of the roles. I enjoyed seeing this type of production as I had not seen it before and also found the musical accompaniments added to the overall message of the performance.

The actors were convincing in their roles and I found the overall end message very clear although it could possibly have benefitted from a darker ending. The strong message delivered in the performance though would, one hopes, be instrumental in educating and informing young people about the dangers of extremism and in following that particular path. I thought overall that the play was powerful, thought provoking and may be an important tool in combating violent extremism. It will now be shown in schools and I’m sure will be enjoyed by and will also stimulate debate amongst any fortunate enough to see it.
Jane Shields (DI Reviewer), 01/05/11

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