Extremism by Andres Lustgarten
Having recently performed at Theatre Peckham in Trade, and it actually being my local theatre, I was delighted to be invited to the Press Night of Extremism.
The foyer was buzzing! Buzzing with laughter, conversation and diversity, and so on entry I felt right at home.
Did you know that Southwark has the youngest and most diverse demographic in London?
No surprise then that Extremism is a direct, candid exploration of what it means to live in a multicultural city whereby your belief systems, ethnicity and politics may be extreme-ly different to your neighbors.
Further to this, the in-direct, composed cultural associations of being British are changing. Extremism not only demonstrates this cultural shift in young people, but also raises some thought-provoking questions about how to determine who is a terrorist!
How do we find similarity when members of our community look and dress so different?
Do we need to, in order to live peacefully?
Is it just about the peace in our lives… or is the peace of others just as important?
*Prevent is a Governmental anti-terrorism programme, that advises those in positions of trust such as teachers, doctors and nurses to be the eyes on the ground and report any suspicion of radicalization.
But from whose perspective, and are the “eyes on the ground” clouded in un/conscious bias?
In an age when we are collectively questioning who taught us what and why - I found this production immersive, hard-hitting and very triggering. Set in a school classroom from the perspective of sixth formers – we (the audience) join the students and are seated at desks in the round. We are all pulled back in time to our school days, to our classrooms and reminded of how brutal our peers can be.
Extremism looks at how heavily we all identify with our race, religion, culture and politics, how these intertwine, and our potential actions and reactions when met with opposing views and no authoritative presence.
My 16-year-old self lost sight of watching a play objectively, or the fact that the young people were merely acting, and I no longer attended school. But my 16-year-old self, shouted out at injustice; laughed at how familiar the characters were; and was devastated at what my older self can now articulate as straight up racism! And how loaded and oppressed and manipulated our response to it is.
It’s been a longtime since a production has captivated me like this – and I think it is because of how familiar the setting was; the impact of social media on our self esteem and as a tool to further bully; and because of being an aunt and older cousin to young people who potentially face this pressure daily! I also felt heavily involved because the play is loaded with our current political state. Adding to the separation and hierarchy in the classroom, despite an age of over-flowing knowledge of content that is unfiltered for our young.
Acting (see above)
Directed by Suzann Mclean
Set by Emma Wee
Catch Extremism at Theatre Peckham NOW! Ends 23rd November.