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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 The P Word

📍 Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush, London, W12 8LJ

🗓 Thursday 20th October 2022

⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️


I'm still sat thinking about how incredible this production was last Thursday at the Bush Theatre. The P Word is only roughly 80 minutes longs but it competently explores issues such as racism, homophobia, religion, friendship, love and asylum with breathtaking realism.

The play is beautifully written by Waleed Akhtar who stars as Billy. Billy is a British Pakistani who was bullied at school for his skin colour, the fact he was overweight and his sexuality. As he has moved into adulthood, he has hit the gym and transformed himself. He is addicted to Grindr and tries to almost disguise his heritage, even going as far as to change his name from Bilal.

He is adamant that he only finds white men attractive and will openly refer to himself with the racist slang term 'paki'. His Muslim family know that he is gay, but they do not acknowledge it and his relationship with them is minimal and frayed.

The other character in the play is Zafar who was portrayed by Esh Alladi. Zafar is a very different character to Billy. He is in London claiming asylum, fearing for his life if he is sent back to Pakistan. When Zafar's relationship with another man was discovered his father had his lover brutally murdered and was planning the same for him. His mother got him out of the house but has both physically and emotionally abandoned him.

Alladi portrays his characters fears and vulnerability exceptionally throughout the performance and really draws you into his soul.

After an awkward meeting at a Gay Pride event, the two form an unlikely friendship in this powerful story. The topic of sexuality and the Muslim community is broached with sensitive realism. Some of the stories resonated with me as I used to share a house with a young gay Muslim and some of the dialogue in this play were scarily similar to the things he would tell me.

This play is sometimes an uncomfortable watch, but this is deliberate as it is through this awkwardness that important conversations can start happening.

As the friendship between the two characters develops, there becomes a sort of will-they won't-they romance that blossoms. Billy fights this as Zafar goes against everything he thought he would be looking for in a parter.

The story shines a light on how hostile the British asylum system is. Although this story has a happy ending, we are reminded that unfortunately these endings are very rare and are given horrific examples of this. When Alladi breaks character and addresses the audience, the shocking realism of the unjust system punches you in the gut.

All in all this is a phenomenally powerful story and Akhtar has penned something wonderfully important. I challenge anyone to go and see this play and not come out a changed person as this performance also makes you challenge yourself and think deeply about social issues.

The set is perhaps the most simplistic I have ever seen, essentially being a circular rotating stage. This just shows that you don't need big flashy sets when a story is this powerful.

The P Word has its final performance on Saturday 29th October so there's really not long to see it. Head to to book tickets. I promise you that you will not leave disappointed.

I really hope that there is a future for this play and I look forward to future works from Akhtar. His style is real and raw and doesn't apologise for this. He is not afraid of tackling issues that others may shy away from and this which makes for very dynamic and forceful storytelling.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.


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