at The Door, Birmingham Repertory Theatre * * *
Review by Terry Grimley
Amber Lone's Paradise explored the way in which a young Muslim might be radicalised, but in her new play fundamentalism does not figure and the religious allegiance of her characters is only fleetingly referred to.
This is a play about the harsh economic realities faced by an impoverished Kashmiri family in East Birmingham, and the traditional cultural attitudes which are tested by them.
The mother, Zainab, has been arbitrarily coupled by an arranged marriage to Rafique, a self-absorbed bumbler whose dreams of riches contrast sharply with his unsuccessful low-key business enterprises. While she is resigned to making the best of it despite stress which, in one of the play's most disconcerting scenes, literally makes her scream, her two children are looking for a way out.
Deema is trying to do it in a constructive way, through education and a mainstream job, while her brother Tariq has succumbed to despair and drug addiction. His supplier is Jimmy, the cousin whom Rafique mistakenly regards as the very model of an upwardly-mobile young businessman.
As Deema dons her sensible grey business skirt - regarded as shockingly revealing by her parents - and heads off to train as an air stewardess, the play seems to conclude that if you can't save everyone, at least you should save yourself.
An ironic perspective on this chaos is provided by Jimmy's white girl-friend Kerry, who naively hankers after the mutual support of Pakistani families.
A timely reminder that many lives of quiet despair are being lived within a few miles of Centenary Square, Deadeye is a dour and pedestrian play which doesn't add much in its treatment of the culture of drugs and depression familiar from many previous productions in The Door. It is chiefly enlivened by Shane Zaza's unusual physical ability to inhabit Tariq's junkie body, as well as deliver his lines.
* Running Time: Two hours, 15 minutes. Until October 28.