If there’s one Christian theatre company that has never been afraid of being edgy, it’s In Yer Face. But recently the team have been touring schools with easily their most provocative show to date.
A Town Called Malice is the story of two teenage neighbours – Parveen, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, and Gina, whose racist dad believes Muslims are taking over the country. When Gina’s brother is killed on foreign soil, tensions between the two mount. But an act of surprising heroism challenges everyone’s understanding of what it means to love your neighbour.
It’s just the latest in a series of dramatised Bible stories that began with Hosea, then moved to the Prodigal Son, and last Christmas’ utterly enthralling Nativity. Writer and director Matt Britton’s genius is in relocating the stories in compelling modern-day contexts, revealing each story’s tensions in powerful ways.
‘Malice started with a scene we’d been workshopping as part of a lesson about prejudice. But the first week I sat down to start writing the play was the week Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in the middle of the street. The reactions in the media helped write it.
‘When we introduce it, we say it’s not an original idea. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan but reimagined as if Jesus were to tell it in Manchester in 2013. How would he illustrate the three words, ‘love your neighbour’?’
The show is touching raw nerves in every school it’s played and Muslim teachers in particular have been singing its praises. In several schools, cases of bullying and abusive behaviour have been unearthed, allowing school staff to deal with it.
‘One was so obvious recently,’ explains team member Emily. ‘During a performance, a girl walked out in tears during the show. And by the end of the day, it had been resolved.’
‘I describe us as the trojan horse of the missions department,’ says Matt. ‘There are so many things it’s deemed you can’t say in schools. But we can stick a wig on and say anything – and schools will applaud it. That’s the power of drama.’
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