Trojan Horse is one of the bravest pieces of theatre to grace the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. Jonathan Penney explains why:

In 2014, a letter was delivered to a local politician, accusing extremists of entering the Birmingham education system and radicalising young children. The effects from this small message were astronomical and the city of Birmingham is still attempting to recover from this four years later. Trojan Horse is a play tha tackles this controversial inquiry.

The cast of five portray their various roles exceedingly well and with a sense of realism, as if watching the true story unfold before the audience’s eyes. Ashna Rabheru gives an emotional performance as a school child feeling the pressure of the accusations on her school, questioned about her teacher’s activities while trying to hide a forbidden relationship with a female classmate. By confiding in her teacher, she estalbishes a bond between the educator and the system, which flies in the face of the accusations made by that fateful letter.

Matt Woodhead’s direction is intentionally stripped back – it retains focus on the onstage events. A blackboard denotes the title of each individual section of the play, chapter headings that give context when setting the scene. At numerous points throughout the performance, four members of the cast act as the press, attempting to glean a comment. The reporters bombard the individual with questions and flashing lights, giving little time to answer at all – Woodhead aptyl highlights how invasive the press can be and the vulgarity of not allowing the individual a civilised interview.

Trojan Horse also addresses the power that a white politican, such as Michael Gove, has in manipulating the British press to make such situations much worse. In this instance, the powers that be succumb to a stereotypic, judgemental mentality, which impacts negatively on the Birmingham community. This production not only retells an important piece of UK history, but provides an insight into how the youth were affected by this particular inquiry.

The research that LUNG have put into Trojan Horse (being adapted from over 200 hours of interviews) are worth it. The result is a polished, informative production that thrives on true content and emotive acting.

 

 

★★★★☆

Trojan Horse runs at Summerhall as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 until 26 August 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.