Daniel Nelson

With perfect political and theatrical timing, Multitudes is set in Bradford on the eve of a Conservative Party conference, with the Prime Minister due to pay a visit.

The scene is set and the result is turmoil — for the Muslim-Christian family who are the focus of actor John Hollingworth’s first play, and for one of the country’s most multicultural cities.

It’s a boldly topical scenario, and the personal and political confrontations unfurl at a fast and furious pace.

Natalie starts it off by converting to Islam, to the surprise of her partner, Kash, who has been a councillor for 15 years and is planning a speech at the party conference in Bradford that will take him on the next step of his career, to Parliament. Surprise doesn’t begin to cover the response of Natalie’s mum, a well-groomed, rose-pruning Tory, who is shocked by the move and by a Muslim protest camp in the city park and whose bewildered Campari-fuelled anger explodes in a ‘little Englander’ tirade against Kash, who, she says, will never be accepted as English. Qadira, Kash’s teenage daughter, is dismissive of her dad’s partner as well as the glacial compromises of party politics and is groomed into making a headline-grabbing protest at the conference. Her faltering stop-start bravado is well drawn, and strikes a chord at a time of national obsession with girls leaving home to join ISIS.

The characters are more than cartoons, and excellent acting gives them life, though Natalie’s mum nearly steals the show with her outrageous Ab Fab outbursts. It’s a part to relish. Inevitably, however, packing four such disparate characters and attitudes into a confined space feels contrived, a feeling heightened by a couple of small plot weaknesses – such as Kash having no whiff of his partner’s impending  religious conversion (and their apparent disinterest in affectionate touching).

In the end, plot, pace and production pitch Multitudes forward, but at the expense of depth: what’s said is said entertainingly but there’s little new here about attitudes to race or religion.
Indhu Rubasingham, the Tricycle Theatre’s artistic director, says in a programme note: “This play was programmed to coincide with the run-up to the general election, though recent global events are now throwing another light on the subject matter explored. Multitudes feels an even more pertinent and important story today [than when it was workshopped in 2011], and will hopefully provoke dialogue and discussion.”

I left the theatre alongside a group of hijab-wearing girls and it was clear that Rubasingham’s hopes were being realised.

•    A programme note quotes Narratives of Conversion to Islam in Britain: Female Perspectives (Cambridge University Press) as saying: “Estimates vary as to the number of British converts to Islam in the UK. Brice (2010) considers there to be somewhere around 100,000 British converts, calculated using data extrapolated from the 2001 census. He also estimates that conversion is occurring on a 2:1 ratio of females to males.”

•    Multitudes is at the Tricycle, 269 Kilburn High Road, London NW6, until 21 March.  Info:   7372 6611/ info@tricycle.co.uk

+ 4 March, post-show Q&A, free
+ 11 March, Women and Islam, panel discussion, 6.15pm-7.15pm, £5
+ 18 March, Our Essential Values” – The end of multiculturalism and the future of diversity in the UK, 6.15-7.15pm, £5



Image by Tricycle Theatre

•   Natalie's road to Islam, in an election-battered Britain


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