We live in a time where old orders are collapsing: from the postcolonial nation states of the Middle East, to the EU and the American election. Through it all, tech savvy and extremist groups rip through twentieth century political certainties.
Amidst this, a generation of young men find themselves burning with resentment; without the money, power and sex they think they deserve. This crisis of masculinity leads them into an online world of fantasy, violence and reality.
Writer and theatre maker Javaad Alipoor spent time in this digital realm, exploring the blurry and complex world of extremists, spies, journalists and fantasists. This bold one-man show weaves together their stories.
The Islamic State is a terrorist organisation with a media presence like no other. Where groups like Al Qaeda, broadcasted their acts with grainy hand held video recorders, ISIS trade on a visual language that owes as much to Game of Thrones and Call of Duty as it does to the aesthetic of other violent non state actors. Its violence is as theatrical as its propaganda, crafted by its well resourced and staffed Ar-Raqqah Media Centre operatives in Syria.
In early 2016, Javaad began research on the young Muslims who run ISIS supporting social media accounts, some from within the so-called “Islamic State”. Working with journalists and specialists, he studied the curators of IS news sites and their supporters. Delving deeper, Javaad found himself lost in an electronic maze of terrorists, terrorist sympathisers, fantasists and police spies.
This play tells this story, and invites an audience into that web; to engage with the resentment, violence and networks of power that are eating away at the structures of the twentieth century and, with the rise of the far right across the globe, giving birth to the twenty first. Through this lens, Javaad explores the complexities of being a young male Muslim today.
2017 Scotsman Fringe First Award Winner. Read more here.
“As well as the subject matter being unique and unusual, the presentation style is also refreshingly innovative… A rare chance to go somewhere where you’re not allowed to go. Exactly what to make of what you find there is for you to decide for yourself.” – The Greater Manchester Reviewer
“The play is cleverly structured, weaving together three stories of alienated individuals with some persuasive political argument… Visually it’s stunning.” – Quiet Man Dave
“This bold one-man show casts a strikingly honest light on ‘men, politics and the internet’ in contemporary society.” – Mancunian Matters
“An ambitious, challenging and an innovative political play on extremism, technology and male violence… Takes audience participation to new heights.” – Caught in the Act
“The show never really broke out of its feeling of tension… I’d suggest you lose yourself for an hour at HOME to experience this work in all its horror, relevance and ingenuity.” – Mancunion
“An important piece of theatre. [Javaad Alipoor’s] performance is compelling and he possesses a knack for storytelling that successfully entices audiences and makes us believe that we are truly in this dystopian digital world.” – Afroanalysis
★★★★ “Javaad Alipoor is a genial and thoughtful young performer… In the end, though, it’s the texture of his writing – combined with stunning visual images by Jack Offord and Adam Radolinski – that makes this tentative but brilliant show a vital Fringe event.” – The Scotsman
★★★★ “There’s a matter-of-fact humour to much of what [Javaad] Alipoor tells us, but also a cold horror – this [is a] show for our times” – The Independent
★★★★ “For many […] the things touched on in Believers will be a revelation. Much of it feels vital to understand in a world where the internet is fast becoming the most powerful thing on the planet. – What’s On Stage
★★★★ “Javaad Alipoor’s account of his research, arguably more than anything else, brings the internet’s capacity for violence closer to home. It is jarring that a playwright, not just a wannabe-medieval warrior, can reach radical groups within a couple of clicks.” – The Wee Review
★★★★ “Boldly conceived and gut-twistingly immediate… Shines a light on a festering corner of the internet – a 21st-century crucible of hate – then observes how fetid tendrils are snaking out into the mainstream. It is, in a way, terrifying.” – The Stage
★★★★ “You have to lean in and aim for total concentration: it’s as fast as any shoot ’em up, and just as violent. It’s also compassionate.” – Fest
“A very special artist, and a very strong voice” – Madani Younis, Artistic Director, Bush Theatre
Co-commissioned by HOME, Ovalhouse and Transform. Supported by funding from Arts Council England.
Want to learn more about The Believers Are But Brothers?
Javaad Alipoor is a writer and director, and sometimes performer. He is resident associate director at Sheffield Theatres, and an associate director of Theatre in the Mill. His work comes from discussions and workshops with communities that don’t usually engage with mainstream theatre. His recent theatre work has included My Brother’s Country – about the murder of Iranian dissident and pop star Fereydoun Farrokhzad (Theatre in the Mill, The Lowry, The Arc), Orgreave: An English Civil War (Theatre in the Mill) and The Rising of the Moon (a promenade community led play about the failed Bradford Chartist Rising commissioned by Bradford Festival). His poetry has been published by Art in Unusual Places and a number of poetry journals and his fiction and writing about politics and theology has appeared in Critical Muslim and books published by UnKant and Continuum.
Read this Guardian feature.
After the performance on Mon 9 Oct, Javaad Alipoor will be joined by Hardeep Singh Koli, artist, comedian, TV presenter to discuss themes from the play in particular media representations of the war on terror, South Asian and Middle Eastern stereotypes and masculinity.