Tuesday, November 29

Brown Boys Swim – Soho Theatre

Brimming with excitement and the promise of the future, Kash and Mohsen are unwittingly each other’s lifeline during their isolating adolescence. Mohsen, the more reserved and cautious of the two plans to study at Oxford university and shies away from leaving his hometown. In spite of his banter and humorous nature, he is constantly guarded and aware of how he navigates the world as a young, Muslim man. Kash serves as his polar opposite, uninhibited and blissfully ignorant of others’ perceptions of him and even interprets them to suit himself. When a pool party is on the cards Kash, forever the optimist decides to learn how to swim, much to Mohsen’s reluctance. Arguments and clashes arise as they explore tensions surrounding their friendship and their different attitudes to life.

Karim Khan’s play battles between playfulness and concern as its vivid world balances comfort with insidious dangers lurking below the surface. The respect and mutual admiration for one another makes their friendship unique. While both boys panic or seek approval in the wrong places, they ultimately handle the situations in their lives with grace.

Photo: Geraint Lewis

Anish Roy and Varun Raj convey Kash and Mohsen’s sincere relationship beautifully and delicately. You could see the stark contrast in their thought processes etched on their faces from Mohsen internalising his fears to Kash’ unfiltered thinking out loud. Their snappy back and forth dialogue was timed perfectly by director John Hoggarth. Both Roy and Raj conveyed a strong sense of loyalty and determination.

Movement was economical and supported the illusory stability of their world as they interacted with James Button’s adjustable set comprising of benches and a swimming pool ledge.

Khan’s play is packed full of food for thought, hinting at many different social factors that influence Kash and Mohsen’s lives, from gentrification to alienation to assimilating versus exploring. Change is a huge theme within this play which makes this play relatable to anyone whilst also validating the experiences faced by young Muslim men.

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 28th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★