The Believers Are But Brothers by Javaad Alipoor – Summerhall, Northern Stage
At the outset of his exploration of the rise of online extremism Javaad Alipoor points out that as a Muslim, he sees a narrative played out every day in the news that he cannot control, and that is not his story. His attempts to make contact with radicalised young men and Isis brides meet with no success whatsoever. After all, what does he have in common with these people, or they with him? The Believers… deals with the wider consequences of this separation, between people sitting behind screens, whether ‘Alt Right’ or jihadi. However, despite using a vareity of media, it is not clear what new insight is on offer.
Alipoor combines pre-recorded sequences with fictionalised narrative and internet video. He also Whatsapps the audience, although when we attended the ushers failed to give us the login instructions so those sequences remained a mystery. Alipoor steps out of the action frequently to tell us what he did and why. This includes relating information that is already well known, for example an extensive explanation of the history of 4chan. This contextualisation is not enough to authenticate the parallel stories he tells of young British Muslims heading to Syria. While these are well written, it is not clear whose experiences they represent. There is also a suspicion that 4chan and its ilk do not deserve the credit the show gives them for their influence on the zeitgeist. The Believers… takes on current concerns and pores over recent events, but despite Alipoor’s best intentions we end up little the wiser about why they have occurred.