Daniel Nelson

Combustion

Combustion

Image by Arcola Theatre

More to the point, it takes an intelligent man to write a comic drama about the grooming scandal.

Asif Khan is that man. 

He presents us with a combustible set of characters during Ramadan in Bradford: Shaz, the 30-year-old garage owner, strict, straight and determined to do well and look after his mother and sister; his fiery friend, Ali; mechanically skilled but simple friend Faisal; and Shaz's sister, Shamina, a young political student activist, a character channelling her inner Saira Zafar. And if you don't recognise that name, you really ought to see the play.

Oh, there's another character: 50-year-old Andy, a member of English Defence. 

Between them they cover a lot of ground in under two hours, though feisty Shamina' struggle to pick a path between family loyalty and independence and her brave determination to improve situations rather than simply shout about them makes her the most interesting character.

Only a couple of times does exposition - on, for example, what the Quran actually says - begin to intrude on the crisp dialogue and escalating action. 

This potentially inflammatory moment in time is brought to life by an excellent cast, with their different responses to the grooming arrests and to each other, and Bradford-born Khan manages to deftly mesh the personal and the political. He has said that his aim in his first full-length play is to entertain and make people laugh as well as breaking stereotypes and misconceptions about Muslims. He even succeeds in rounding off the evening on a positive note.

* Combustion is at the Arcola, 24 Ashwin Street, E8, until 24 June, £10/£14/£17. Info: 7503 1646/ BOXOFFICE@ARCOLATHEATRE.COM ; 30 June-8 July: RADA, 62-64 Gower Street, WC1, £10/£5. Info: 7636 7076/ enquiries@rada.ac.uk

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