Review: Salaam, VAULT Festival

There’s something really quite delicately compelling about the story Sara Aniqah Malik’s Salaam is telling at the VAULT Festival

“I don’t know how to help, or what to say, or what to do”

It’s Ramadan and Mariam (an excellent Yasmin Wilde) is having to convince her teenage daughter Rema (an equally good Raagni Sharma) of how seriously to take this most holy of months. Their peace is broken when a pigs head is lobbed through their front window but it’s soon apparent that it is more than the glass that has been shattered, Rema’s fragile confidence is in pieces too

Sara Aniqah Malik’s Salaam exploring the pervasiveness of Islamophobia, the ways in which its violence encroaches on life whether personally, through personal attacjs, or subliminally, through the unquestionable intimations of phrases like ‘acts of terror’. And she shows us the generational difference too, Mariam able to throw off abuse more easily, in order to shelter her daughter as much as anything.

The strength she finds in her faith is something that Rema has yet to reconcile herself with yet, if she ever will. And this is where Salaam soars, in its uncomplicated depiction of the power that belief can bring to some people. Kristina Arakelyan’s original score, beautifully played live on Edie Bailey’s violin and sung by Megan McArthur, amplifies the weight of this cultural pull, as Rema tries to find what place she can as a modern British Muslim woman.

Into this world comes barrelling Ellie (Laura Waldren), a well-meaning teenage neighbour, and Malik captures beautifully the awkwardness of teenage interaction, underlaid with the slight menace of the unknown. She’s an essential part of the drama but her arrival also slightly overloads the play at its current length. That said, I would love to see a full length version as there’s something really quite delicately compelling about the story it is telling.

Running time: I hour (without interval)
Salaam is running at the VAULT Festival until 3rd February

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