The Believers Are But Brothers begins in the queue. Staff members coax our phone numbers from us so that the performers can communicate with us from the stage. Some are unwilling at first, but by the time we enter, almost everyone has given up their number and we are ushered into a dark room with the stage lit up by a familiar blue light: ‘now we lose ourselves in the inky blackness of our screens.’
Two men with headphones on are staring at screens, thumbing away at plastic controllers with the odd sound of gunshots or screams. We wait patiently, but it lasts an uncomfortably long time. The audience becomes restless and frustrated. Then, our phones light up and Javaad Alipoor introduces himself and invites us into his community.
The play takes the structure of a modern lecture with images, videos, messaging and audience participation. Alipoor is an engaging and charismatic speaker and attempts to unearth why so many young men run away to join ISIS. He himself has spoken to ISIS recruiters on Whatsapp, and attempted to have a joke with them. He shares some of the propaganda they use to enlist followers consisting of posters depicting life fighting in Syria as real life Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty – it’s extremely unsettling in its effectiveness.
However, Alipoor provides us with too much information at once and it makes the play difficult to follow at times. In addition to the political commentary, there are constant messages lighting up everyone’s phones which made it hard to stay focused on the stage. The bombardment of information can become overwhelming and I found myself getting distracted by my phone on occasion.
The Believers Are But Brothers is well written and well performed and has a very unique structure. However, it became more of a lecture than a play and it lacked the drama and excitement to keep its audience fully engaged.
Words: Madeleine Sanders
The Believers Are But Brothers, Summerhall, Aug 5-26, 12.45pm