Park Theatre, London – until 12 May 2018
Unless you have been living under a rock the past 17 years, you will have no doubt heard about the ‘war on terror’ on the news. For many countries, foreign policy has been influenced by this, but the greatest fear has been ‘the enemy within’ – citizens showing sympathy for the terrorists and helping them discreetly.
Various governments as a matter, of course, have scrutinised the ‘radicalisation’ of the young in the Muslim community and in the case of some teenage girls, stopped them from running away to terrorist cells in Afghanistan. However, what does one do when the girl in question is a non-Muslim – who is in fact Caucasian?
Inspired by a true court case in the US, Faceless – which is written by Selina Fillinger and directed by Prav Menon-Johansson – deftly tackles this conundrum with tact. State prosecutor Scott Bader (Matt Mella) has to deal with the case of an 18-year-old American girl found guilty of corresponding with ISIS.
Scott wants to throw the full weight of the law at Susie Glenn (Fiona Gent) – the girl in question, but to assist him with this political hot potato, he calls upon Claire Fathi (Paige Round) to his legal team – who was raised in the Muslim faith, routinely wears a hijab… and Caucasian. Claire doesn’t initially want anything to do with this case as she knows her ‘unusual status’ will attract a lot of unwanted attention to her and may indirectly perpetuate Islamophobia. However, at the arraignment Susie (wearing her own hijab) tries to speak to Claire, which irks her no end. Spurred by this, Claire decides to be lead prosecuting counsel on the case of the State v Susie Glenn…
In all the best courtroom dramas, motive spurs the action and the purpose of the narrative is to ascertain guilt. In the case of this play, Susie’s correspondence by social media is incontrovertible. Whether she REALLY knew what she doing is more of a grey area.
As someone whose mother wasn’t religious and whose father works as a paramedic, Susie doesn’t fit the profile of someone warped by dogma or isn’t empathetic. However, we see that her stubbornness, in some regards, is her own worst enemy, as her ‘principles’ stop her from having visits from her father Alan (Fearon McElroy) or being represented to his fullest ability by her lawyer Mark Arenberg (Sam Thorpe-Spinks). Representation of the social media correspondence is shown, but as for why she persisted… that’s discussed throughout.
In terms of the characters that are most compelling to watch, that honour belongs to Claire and Scott. They both have very different reasons for persuing this case, but if this play shows anything, it’s that there’s no homogeneity when it comes to people of ‘faith’. Equally important, the reasons for actions almost always have a emotional core. One just needs to do a little digging…
© Michael Davis 2018
Faceless runs at Park Theatre until 12th May.
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