Touring – reviewed at Leeds Playhouse
Guest reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
The Leeds Playhouse has opened its doors following an impressive renovation and Trojan Horse is the first production to be hosted. It takes place in the newly refurbished Courtyard Theatre and the audience’s anticipation lingers when the five person cast crew sit at their desks and wait for the performance to begin.
LUNG, a Barnsley-based Theatre Company, in association with Leeds Playhouse, presents Trojan Horse which is accompanied by Faisal Hussain’s Gove Horse. LUNG uses original sources to create work that addresses relevant issues including those politically, socially and economically. Trojan Horse is no exception and this production takes the opportunity to investigate what really happened behind the scenes other than media headlines and the government’s so-called policy based approaches.
Written by Helen Monks and Matt Woodhead, the production explores the grave impact of communities in Birmingham following the controversial Operation Trojan Horse that the Government initiated. The initiation, from a leaked letter, stated that ‘hardline’ Muslim teachers and governors were conspiring and planning to plot extremism in their schools.
Under the direction of Woodhead, in a classroom setting, the stage is set for the stories, based on real life interviews and testimonies by those affected from the Government inquiry, to be shared and be shared in ways that nobody would have imagined as they probably only had the sensationalised media coverage to rely on. From the beginning to end the stories and experiences are very eye opening, triggering shockingly provoked thoughts and uncomfortable hearing. The inquiry has had long lasting impacts both personally and in society to many and has changed communities’ lives forever. The impacts were solidified further from a Q&A panel afterwards with members who were directly and indirectly involved with the scandalous enquiry.
The investigative narrative is excellently projected and it documents how destructive approaches were in conducting the inquiry which turned out to be inconclusive. It testifies how limited the narrative was and how it was conducted with influences of mainstream media, institutionalised racial and cultural divisions and general ignorance. A comment is shared from the Q&A panel afterwards how one can’t underestimate the trajectory of Trojan Horse and real life experiences. Still the consequential impact of the inquiry is still felt by many today and generations to come and hence why these stories from those communities need to be shared.
The five person cast crew portrays excellently the characters, covering the pupils, teachers, governors and education professionals. It was emphasised from the Q&A panel that it is important to share this narrative to a wider audience, particularly in arts and culture settings, and to tackle the consequences to those issues. They also emphasise that using regular dialogues are essential and the way forward to tackling the negative impacts the communities are still experiencing years later. Yes the truth has to be told; there are at least two sides to every story and hearing them one knows why! Trojan Horse is a very important and unmissable production!