Extremism: A uncompromising political play by Anders Lustgarten

Extremism by Anders Lustgarten is an uncompromising political play set in a secondary school classroom runs at the Theatre Peckham and shows ‘great insight’ into Prevent according to a prominent Muslim community leader.

Lustgarten wrote Extremism for the National Theatre’s Connections programme of works to be performed by young people. In its review of the play, the British Theatre Guide stated:

“Lustgarten’s narrative presents a variety of views and raises important issues of belonging, country, faith and defending your convictions, but with the running time of a single lesson, by necessity these are touched on only briefly.

The text reveals the pupils as poorly informed and quick to generalise, with points made bluntly and responded to in the same terms, or where they don’t have an answer countered by shaming personal put-downs.

The rapid build-up of tension required by the condensed timeframe gives the action an urgency reinforced by the understated beat of Lustgarten’s text and the forthrightness of the pupils’ argot.”

The plot is set in a London secondary, when ten pupils are left in a classroom when one of their peers is taken away by the police to be interviewed under Prevent. Left unsupervised, they speculate and antagonise one another, until the violence builds up in a startling dramatic illustration of the impact of Prevent which is often overlooked.

First produced by NT Connections (2017), the play was directed by Suzann McLean and designed by Emma Wee.

Of the production, Imam Shakeel Begg at the Lewisham Islamic Centre, stated:

“With a captivating script, excellent direction, and great production, the play is a powerful depiction of what life is like for Muslims in the UK today. Raw and gritty, an emotional roller coaster episode which in parts made for difficult watching, but which never abandoned that most fundamental of human instincts –hope. Sorrow, joy, laughter, tears, and hope were wonderful ingredients narrated by the great performances. This theatre engaged people in ways that other approaches have not. The post show Q&A showed the great insight that many now have about the disastrous PREVENT policy and its impact on the Muslim community”.

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