Trojan Horse @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

LUNG's award-winning show, adapted from 200 hours of interviews, concentrates on the devastating consequences of a media storm

Review by Carmen Paddock | 17 Feb 2020
  • 1. Gurkiran Kaur Keshini Misha Qasim Mahmood Komal Amin and Mustafa Chaudhry in Trojan Horse. Image by Ant Robling

After winning the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018, and launching a national tour last autumn, LUNG bring their latest piece to the Traverse for two nights on a tour of Scotland. Adapted from over 200 hours of interviews, Trojan Horse is a portrayal of the recently (and unsatisfactorily) closed scandal that rocked Birmingham schools. It takes its name from the inquiry into the so-called ‘plot’ to allegedly force Islamic doctrine on schoolchildren in Birmingham's Park View distict. Three years on from the end of the investigation, the repercussions on students, teachers, and the community’s sense of place are tangible – and the testimonies in this piece of documentary theatre unearth unhealed wounds. 

Names are changed and characters are created from amalgamations of real figures. The company pushes the testimonial limitations of verbatim theatre, using methods such as kinetic staging and overlapping dialogue to constantly re-frame the narrative. Consequently, the show successfully emphasises the convoluted history of the investigation and the resulting frustrations and tensions.

While the cast all play multiple roles, they are each given one primary role based on a different perspective of events. Trojan Horse gives us the young councillor, the ex-governor set on retribution, the veteran head teacher, the teacher keen to ensure no student slips through the cracks, and the student who finds a place in the world at Park View – only to have it called into question through the events that follow. The choice is a strong one, allowing the audience to become familiar with five disparate viewpoints while facilitating a fluid storytelling style. The naturalistic, understated performances further bring the resulting personal devastation to the fore, driving home the doubt and destruction that resulted from the scandal.

At the end of Trojan Horse, audiences are informed that a trial that dragged on for two and a half years was tossed out after the government sat on evidence. We're also told – perhaps more damningly – that there is still no definition of Islamophobia in the UK. It is a timely reminder of British society’s struggles with diversity, multiculturalism, and how these issues interract with class in a scaremongering age.

Trojan Horse tours until 28 Feb