Ali J

Pleasance Courtyard

Theatre Reviewed by Lauren Paxman

We first meet Ali J on death row, hours from execution. He is a Muslim who lives in India, and has been in prison for 10 years for a crime he did not commit.

As Karthik Kumar begins to give us Ali J's backstory, his plight becomes that of all Indians and Pakistanis. For, as he explains, “the only partition that remains is within”.

Shekinah Jacob has written an admirably rich solo drama. As our protagonist talks about his ex and their courtship, the show takes on a Bollyfood feel, when he goes to London to study we get something called 'exaggerated mime style' and later Kumar sings Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy to the tune of Singin' In The Rain...

It's an impressive, demanding performance and an admirably ambitious production. The simple, yet effective set first places Ali J in a cage, and later in a spider's web. Meanwhile, complex lighting adds emotion to Kumar's dances and speech, helping to break the piece into its many layers.

There is so much going on here that it is sometimes hard to latch onto anything at all, but it is a thought-provoking show. As our hero begins to contemplate an easier life with Muslim extremists, you can't help wondering what the right solution would be.

Published online
Review by
Lauren Paxman
Produced by
Evam (India) and Richard Jordan Productions in association with Pleasance
Shekinah Jacob
Karthik Kumar
Running time
1 hour
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