ast month I had the privilege of seeing a play by the acclaimed playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak an Iraqi born post doctorate researcher based in London.
Although Abdulrazzak received a PhD in Muscular Dystrophy in 1999, he is better known for writing plays that present pertinent yet difficult narratives. ‘Love, Bombs and Apples’ is one of them and a touching story told in four distinct monologues. Each monologue expounds the story of a young man battling with his own internal conflicts whilst recounting shared experience of the sociopolitical world they each encounter from their own perspective. I found his play captivating and really enjoyed each character and watching their stories unfold. The mix of honest introspection and staunch point of view was often uncomfortable but it was such a relief to be presented with questions and thoughts about the Muslim experience post 9/11 that are not often shared in a public domain. Of all Abdulrazzak’s characters, Abdul was my favourite, a young writer fresh out of university with dreams for a future he would never know. I could relate to his experiences of prejudice, feelings of isolation and internalised oppression. I loved his wit and appreciated the way he weaved his experience through his words to us as audience. Of all the characters I felt that Isaac was the most human. Although flawed, as all the characters were, Isaac expresses hope, fear, desire, love and the challenge of a shifting sense of loyalty. Being the only non-Muslim character, I felt a little cheated that he was given a
richer narrative with broader context that involved wholesome relationships with others, affording him a deeper context in which to explore his own morality. I approached Abdulrazzak later. Amongst other things, I asked him about his play and what inspired him to spend his time between scientific research and storytelling.
What motivated you to engage in a vocation far beyond your science background exploring such challenging themes? I have always written stories and poems although they were mainly shared with my friends, cousins and immediate family. However, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, my country of origin, I was compelled to write a play (Baghdad Wedding) that showed a different side to Iraq than the one presented in the news. There was such a focus on the looting of museums in Baghdad and the acts of violence by insurgents that some people in the West ended up concluding that Iraq was this barbaric place and it had always been so. I was keen to show another side of Iraq by
focusing on the educated middle class and to remind the audience that the destruction of Iraq by the West didn’t just start in 2003 but happened during the preceding decade when crippling economic sanctions were imposed on the country. There is a sense of a common story or thread being woven through Love, Bombs and Apples. What is the core message you wish to convey in your writing as a whole? I guess I want to present stories that are not immediately obvious, ones that challenge the stereotype about Muslims or that address the politics of the Middle East but in a sideways, complex fashion, capturing the humanity and the complexity of characters. Israeli occupation is not the immediate concern but it becomes so as the story develops and this makes it unusual in the context of telling stories about Palestine. I guess what I always look for in a story about the Middle East is an interesting, unexpected entry point into the story, one that takes us away from the headlines and into the hearts of the characters. All the characters in Love, Bombs and Apples are seeking very ordinary, human objectives that make them clash with the bigger political picture around. This is typified by the story of Sajid, who thinks he has written the definitive post 9/11 novel only to be arrested by the police who think he has written a terror manual. While the play presents honest accounts of personal experience giving voice to marginalised groups and narratives, is the