‘The Great Extension’ – a review
Hassan, a second generation Turk, wakes up one morning with a hangover but the accompanying headache isn’t to do with the noise from his builder doing an extension, but the fact he had got married the previous day, in alcoholic blackout, to a Muslim beauty named Jamillia. His problems are compounded by the arrival of her disapproving family members in the guise of her irate father, a very protective brother and a sister (concealed in full Muslim dress with only her eyes on show). A further complication is added by the complaints about the building works from his reactionary neighbour, the very English Mr Brown, as well as the arrival of Hassan’s materialistic and insensitive Turkish father accompanied by his alcoholic wife, Hassan’s suffering mother. Throw in a transsexual houseboy and a black policeman, trained in diversity training but not in spotting a corpse, and we have a perfect recipe for this amusing and intelligent farce.
Written by Cosh Omar, who also plays the lead role as Hassan, this challenging farce tackles the hypocrisy inherent in not just the Islamic faith but in all religions. Despite the frequent references to the Koran and other ‘spiritual’ literature on Hassan’s bookshelf, the characters seem to be drawn to the selfish material life manifested in property ownership and driving Mercedes cars. Omar comically deals with the issues of multiculturalism, racism, faith, Judo-Islamic conflict, and sexuality with the use of stereotyped characters in an amusing but inoffensive manner. The multi-ethnic audience laughed at these images and comments as they probably identified with these stereotyped characters. The acting was convincing and very visual, particularly from the actress playing the Muslim sister who used her eyes and voice, to good and comical effect.
I felt the last scene with the houseboy meeting a new boyfriend seemed superfluous and the attempted murder of Mr Brown didn’t seem in keeping with a comedy that was, in a way, celebrating multicultural London.
Overall, this was an enjoyable and thought provoking production and well worth the trip across London to Stratford East. Stratford East’s tradition as a community theatre is well served by this production with its excellent cast of eccentric and extreme characters that maintain an individuality that outweighs the stereotyping they represent. As I read in one review, the ‘themes are challenging and the performances, under Kerry Michael’s direction, are slick in this roller coaster of a ride, full of unseen twists and turns, that keeps us on our toes and wildly amused’.
10th November 2009