Liver and Lung Productions have created something extraordinary in Submission, a new play about the conflict between religion and sexuality. A two-hander, this eye-opening story melds physical theatre, spoken word and naturalism in a highly unique and moving way.
Sameer is a young Muslim Pakistani trying to align his position as ‘a liberal Muslim’ with his queerness. Shiv Rabheru has a nervous energy which is perfect for this role, and his delivery of spoken word monologues inspired by Qur’anic passages is at times breathtaking. If Kieran Mackintosh – who apparently took on the role of Sameer’s love interest last-minute – was at all uncertain in the role, he did not show it. His masculine energy contrasted with Rabheru’s gentility in a horrible but well-played parallel.
Minimal set, a solid lighting design and gorgeous soundscapes make the play what it is. Composer Shafeeq Shajahan, who also wrote and directed this piece in with Hannah Shields, uses the music well to transition us through the nonlinear plot. The transitions themselves are seamless and if the actors ever need to readjust to immediate new circumstances they do not show it. The single major piece of set – a prayer mat – is stark on the small stage in the black box theatre, and it is lovely to behold.
The physical moments are beautifully choreographed, and both sex and prayer movements are used to great effect to reflect the topics of the play. Both actors are talented physical performers and the thrust stage is used well to engage the entire audience. The strength of the play comes, however, in its most intimate moments, when the actors find themselves pushed together at one corner of the stage, or addressing each other from afar.
If you’ve ever struggled with your identity this play will speak to you, especially if you have ever had to deal with reconciling aspects of your faith or sexuality. This is fascinating, real and astonishing theatre, and I urge everyone to see it this Fringe.