Can comedy about terrorism ever be funny?

A new play coming to Bradford tonight combines stand-up and drama to convey a powerful message. Theatre correspondent Nick Ahad reports.

Asif Khan in Love, Bombs and Apples.
Asif Khan in Love, Bombs and Apples.

A Pakistani-born would-be novelist is mistaken for a terrorist, a Jewish New Yorker, a Bradfordian and a Palestinan actor who just wants to get his leg over. It’s a disparate quartet, all embodied by Asif Khan.

The RADA-trained actor is bringing the story of these four men to Bradford tonight in the one-man show Love, Bombs and Apples. Written by Hassan Abdulrazzak, the play is that theatrical cliche of a ‘tour-de-force’. Cliches are sometimes entirely appropriate. “Yes, I’m on stage for the entire 90 minutes,” says Khan. “I think that hit me on the first day of rehearsal when I realised it’s just me and the audience for an-hour-and-a-half. I realised straight away that I just had to be brave and go with it and bring the audience along with me.”

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When you take the quartet of characters, it’s easy to imagine a pretty serious play, if not something that is entirely polemic.

The play is actually a series of four monologues, the stories involve Emad, a Palestinian actor, Sajid, a Pakistani-born would be novelist living in contemporary Britain. Then there’s a young Asian Bradfordian and Jewish New Yorker Isaac, whose father is a staunch pro-Israeli.

Pretty political then?

“It’s really funny. It’s actually almost like a cross between stand-up and straight theatre. I look the audience in the eye all the time, so they are invited in to share the stories. Emad, the Palestinian actor has a single aim to find somewhere that he can have sex with the girl he’s just met. He can’t go back to his house, so he ends up driving around and takes her to the wall.” It sounds like a Carry On film? “It is really, really funny.”

The storyline involving Sajid, it transpires, is equally ripe for comedy. “He wants to write a post-9/11 novel and sends it out to lots of publishers and critics in Britain. The problem is, the police think it’s not just fictional and they arrest him for terrorism related offences. He ends up being interrogated by someone who he refers to the whole way through as ‘Bronson’,” says Khan.

Tonight the actor brings the show to Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill and the demand for tickets for tonight’s show means a matinee has been added tomorrow.

And tonight’s performance will be a homecoming for Khan, who originally comes from Bradford.

“I’m a really proud Bradfordian. I went to Salt’s Grammar School and it was in Bradford where I first made a connection to theatre,” says Khan. He first came across the Bradford Theatre in the Mill when he was studying at the city’s university – the building is a part of the university campus. When he was a student he appeared in productions at the theatre, but tonight will be the first time he has performed there in a decade.

He says he hopes the performance will bring people through the doors of the theatre who might not ordinarily make up the audience. “As a British Muslim and a Bradfordian, I want to make work which represents my own community and encourage more people from my community to come along to the theatre,” he says.

“I really want to put voices and stories on the stage that we don’t normally hear. The stories we hear about Muslims don’t represent me and they don’t represent the reality of what I see in my community. It’s time we told these stories and saw them on stage.”

Love, Bombs and Apples, Theatre in the Mill, Bradford, tonight, 7.30pm, July 2, 2.30pm. Tickets 01274 233200.