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I had high expectations for this play based merely on the humorous and dark title: “Does My Bomb Look Big in This?”, hoping to find both those themes throughout. Nyla Levy’s debut fictional play doesn’t disappoint. Writing and starring alongside two talented actors, Halema Hussain and Eleanor Williams, who portray authentic youth growing up in the political turmoil that is Britain today, Levy shines as a new voice to watch.
Levy began writing this play many years before the British IS bride made headlines this year when the British government stripped her of her citizenship and her newborn died when she was refused repatriation to Britain from the Syrian refugee camp. She was fifteen years old when she and her two friends left Britain to join IS in Syria, and many in Britain reading the headlines were hard pressed to understand why teenage girls, who enjoyed the freedoms and education available in Britain, would choose to join what invariably is a patriarchal, militaristic cult.
“Does My Bomb Look Big in This” does more than the job of helping “us” understand this question of why, but as we follow these three British girls, we are reminded that teenagers are vulnerable, emotional, and flawed children in oversized, sexually formed bodies. We are reminded that they make mistakes. They follow the wrong people. And often, if they realise their mistakes, they truly are sorry. Holding young people to account as adults for crimes they commit when they are still dealing with puberty and navigating their entrance into the adult world, is a travesty.
Mingyu Lin’s direction made the scene transitions from past to present and to breaking the fourth wall flow without confusion or jarring the audience, adding a modern touch akin to the popular show Fleabag. Conrad Kira, the sound designer, and Tanya Stephenson, the lighting designer, brought the musical transitions to life, and at times it felt like the stage had transformed into a music video. In these scenes, Yasmin (Levy) shines as a spoken word poet-cum-political rapper. She had so much potential, but the political unrest and discrimination within contemporary British society let her down.
Go see this play! It will make you laugh, it will make you think, and it may even make you cry, but the best thing about “Does My Bomb Look Big in This? is seeing how teenagers behave in their everyday lives. It reminds us how flawed they are, yet how wonderful it is to be young. There is hope in our youth today if we can open our minds and judge them not with our fears but with a view to what our world could become if we let them shape it. (Five Stars)
“Does My Bomb Look Big in This” will be at Soho Theatre from 21 May to 8 June 2019