REVIEW: Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy (VAULT Festival)

Wound Up Theatre present a show which aims to ‘take the terror out of terrorism’ in a duologue between two young soldiers in Iraq.

In the damp smelling Cavern space at VAULT Festival, Queen is playing. Freddie Mercury’s voice blasts out of speakers whilst a soldier is tied to a pole with a cloth over his face, keeping him blind.
“I WANT TO BREAK FREE!” he shouts, as the music dies down. The silence is palpable.

Matthew Greenhough’s play sees an hour in the life of Dean, a twenty-something British Army soldier, and ‘Danny’, a young British-born man who joined the Islamic State. We see them together in this prison cell – as captive and guard – struggling with the roles they have been given in this situation, and beginning to have conversations the way ‘enemies’ should not. From realising they’d both served their time at Wetherspoons, to balking at the idea of £4.89 meal deals, the two begin to talk more personally about each other. About their jobs, their relationships, their families, and why they chose to join their respective troops.

Greenhough’s writing deals with the topic in a way which, though using comedy as a tool to hold conversations about political matters, does not parody or make fun of either party. The jokes are side-splittingly funny, and the use of colloquial language (Danny being from London, Dean from Leeds) makes these characters seem real and warm – the people we know. Dean is full of self-depreciating wit whilst Danny has a larger-than-life charm and presence. Of course, the pair’s bonding doesn’t come without its challenges and there’s plenty of violence and near-misses involved, which are excellently choreographed.

The crux of this play, despite all of the laughter and fighting, is that though our fundamental beliefs and idea may be different, that there is more that unites us than divides – even the small things. In this case, the two men just want to go home.




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