Review: The Believers Are But Brothers @ HOME, Manchester

The Believers Are But Brothers is sending a thought-provoking message at HOME, Manchester.

Written and performed by Javaad Alipoor, this bold one-man show casts a strikingly honest light on ‘men, politics and the internet’ in contemporary society.

Using videos and an original piece of audience interaction, Alipoor acts out the stories of three young men, their fantasies and their complex relationships with the internet.

The audience WhatsApp group, which is created pre-show, is a highly effective way to illustrate how easy it is to recruit and radicalise.

The playwright believes the aim is to ‘Hollywood-ise ISIS’ and says the most shocking thing he discovered was the Islamic State’s propaganda-utilising images that paint a lifestyle emulating Game of Thrones and Call of Duty.

Set in the bedroom of a seemingly normal young man, we watch Alipoor play a computer game while he addresses the audience through a webcam.

Alipoor: The playwright has penned a thought-provoking piece

The 32-year-old – of Iranian and British heritage – says there is a generation of young men driven by sex and violence who firmly believe in male privilege.

Alipoor told MM: “Resentment sits in the hearts of young men today. They grow up expecting things and if they’re not getting that they do terrible things.”

But this is not a play just about Muslim men.

Alipoor highlights – to the predominantly white liberal audience nonetheless –how the rise of the alt-right in the United States is enhanced by the forum 4Chan

While Donald Trump reigns as a hero amongst 4Chan users, the far-right forum also created the mainstream terms ‘LOL’, ‘BRB’ and the infamous ‘meme’.

During the production, images of Islamic State propaganda are projected on to the screen while we read the misogynistic rhetoric and sexual violence directed at women through a white Californian’s WhatsApp group.

We are reminded of Jo Cox’s murder, just as we are reminded of the Manchester Arena bomb.

After extensively studying curators of IS news sites, their supporters and ISIS social media accounts, one of the most fascinating elements of The Believers Are But Brothers is the research behind it.

Alipoor told MM: “I came across the Taliban’s Twitter account.” He then laughed at the idea that the group employs a communications team.

BOLD: The one-man show shines a light on several themes

One meme that stood out included a muscle-bound ‘Hollywood Jihadi’ that read: “Sisters, what kind of man do you want?”

We often wonder how so many can trust the messages in propaganda material but Alipoor emphasises the mundanity of the lives these men lead.

They are told to leave behind their boring lives in England and the miserable prospect of stacking shelves at Tesco for years to come.

Alipoor explains how in real life, women ignore these young men but on the web they become commanders of power and once again we are reminded of the misogynistic fantasies which lure the disaffected in.  

Throughout the performance, the underlying message appears to be the disturbing power the internet holds.

Whether through the use of a meme or WhatsApp, the web provides a platform for the disillusioned to become radical and the play’s thought-provoking message certainly leaves the audience with plenty to contemplate. 

*The Believers Are But Brothers is showing at HOME Manchester until Thursday October 12. You can buy tickets HERE.

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