The P Word ★★★★ Bush Theatre | Sep 9 - Oct 22, 2022

The P Word presents the very different experiences of two gay men. Zafar has experienced love and enjoys a sense of self-acceptance, but he has been persecuted in Pakistan and is now seeking refugee status in Britain. Bilal or Billy, who has grown up in London, struggles both with his relationship to his ethnicity and to the gay world. The latter seems to offer lots of sexual options, but few opportunities for a relationship. The two meet and form a bond which allows Billy to develop his sense of self-acceptance and to be less judgmental of others. At that same time, he becomes an activist on the issue of immigration and acts to help Zafar deal with the appallingly unfair and degrading reality of the refugee process. Waleed Akhtar has written a play that takes on a great many complex and challenging issues, and he creates intriguing and sympathetic characters, which are all subsumed in the exposé of Britain's flawed refugee claimant process. The P Word becomes a really quite harrowing representation of this bureaucratic nightmare. Akhtar's interpretation of the insecure and vulnerable Billy, who finds himself as he takes on his friend's cause, is well-crafted and completely credible, and Esh Alladi is suitably sympathetic as the abused Zafar. For anyone who thinks that the current system for refugee claimants works, or that it only needs to be tightened up, this will be eye-opening theatre. It is also an evening that offers insight into the lives of two gay men from worlds that may not be so different.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Craig Fuller.

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