Trojan Horse @ Summerhall

An unflinching, unapologetic piece that pulls no punches

Review by Deborah Klayman | 14 Aug 2018
  • Trojan Horse

Based on real events and adapted from numerous interviews and public documents, Trojan Horse examines the media storm surrounding allegations in 2014 that “hardline” Muslim teachers and governors had infiltrated and attempted to radicalise Birmingham schools.

Written by Helen Monks and Matt Woodhead, and produced in association with Leeds Playhouse, Trojan Horse uses verbatim accounts to bring the real story to the stage. It is challenging and uncomfortable at times, yet pulls no punches in attacking the insidious Islamophobia that sits at the story’s core. Some of the characters are unpalatable, but LUNG do not shy away from that, presenting the facts to the audience in an unflinching style on a cleverly designed set that represents both classroom and courtroom.

The five-strong cast are outstanding, each slickly moving between multiple roles. Ashna Rabheru is particularly compelling as Farah, a charismatic girl who finds in school both solace and the space to be herself. Annice Boparai’s Elaine is brilliantly drawn, and Shobat Kadara presents a sympathetic Tahir. Maanuv Thiara’s incarnation of Razwan Faraz is rendered warts and all, along with striking opening lines which recur at the end, bringing the audience full circle.

Although there are moments that elicit laughs and groans of recognition (largely about the Tory and coalition governments), Trojan Horse never fails to go for the jugular. The relationship between Rabheru and Komal Amin’s characters is touching yet underscored by danger. When Farah comes out to her teacher or refers to her dad “literally killing her” we are reminded that this play is not apologising for anyone, and all the uncomfortable truths are there to be examined.

Ultimately, the casualties of the Trojan Horse affair were the children and communities in some of Birmingham’s most deprived areas, along with the air of “no smoke without fire” suspicion that is the legacy of Prevent. The Spectator article at the time showing a child with a Qur’an and a sword under the strapline “Taught to Hate” is hard to forget, but this vital play is a major step in reclaiming and reframing the narrative.

Trojan Horse, Summerhall, 1-26 Aug (not 13), 3.15pm, £12-£11

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