Review: Guantanamo Boy, The Wharf
Production: Guantanamo Boy
Publication: The Wharf
Reviewer: Julia Gregory
Half Moon Theatre, Limehouse
★★★★✩ (4 stars)
IN A NUTSHELL
Hard-hitting play brings issues such as torture and human rights to a younger audience, writes Julia Gregory.
It’s a sobering thought that the youngest members of the audience for Guantanamo Boy were not even born when the US detention camp was opened in 2002.
This adaptation of Anna Perera’s novel is aimed at the 12-plus age group and poses questions about human rights and state action in the war on terror.
The author said she was inspired by a fund-raiser for human rights campaigners Reprieve where she heard about the children who had been held in detention at Guantanamo Bay.
Figures are disputed but she said there had been between 12 and 60 children held in detention.
Her fictionalised account focuses on Khalid (Antonio Khela) a teenager from Rochdale, who likes computer games and messing about with his friends.
He has a typical teenage relationship with his mother (Bhawna Bhawsar) eschewing homework for gaming and dreams of developing a relationship with a girlfriend, but that world is about to turn upside down, when he takes a wrong turning during a visit to stay with family in Pakistan.
Directed by Dominic Hingorani, the play explores key issues from the book and we follow Khalid’s descent into a hellish experience in captivity in a detention centre where he is subjected to interrogation and encouragement to confess before he is threatened with the grim reality of torture and water boarding.
Roisin O’ Loughlin was on our screens as a nurse in the movie Diana. Here she plays the would-be girlfriend and takes on the role of an investigator trying to get Khalid to admit to terrorism.
And Edward Nkom shows two sides of the prison system, as one sympathetic guard and another who is “simply following orders”.
Perhaps the most affecting scenes portray the impact on Khalid’s mental health and the fury of a fellow detainee (Bhawsar) at what has been done to a boy.
This four-hander from Brolly Productions is aimed at a young audience, from 12 upwards, and although the subject matter is shocking and makes for uncomfortable viewing, it is not graphic, but designed to spark a debate and leave us with the lesson that violence fails to solve anything, but more violence.
The show closes on November 11, go to halfmoon.org.uk
Picture by Camilla Greenwell: Khalid (Antonio Khela) confronted by guard, Wade (Edward Nkom)