Written for Trimaran Productions by Gbolahan Obisesan and ex-headteacher Peter Campling, The Echo Chamber is a play aimed at young people about extremism and online radicalisation. The show was produced as a response to the 2015 Counter Terrorism Act that requires schools to help prevent children from being drawn to terrorism. The heavy subject matter of the play is dealt with balance and humour, resulting in a provocative and informative piece.
The play opens with a young Muslim girl from East London called Cali, who is watching an Isis propaganda video on her laptop, something her friend sent to her. At the same time, a young boy called Steve who is from Wales is in an online chatroom, speaking to a man called Hugh. Hugh thinks Britain isn’t the same Britain anymore. As the play goes on, Cali becomes increasingly detached from her family, until finally she finds herself in Syria, married to a soldier.
Obisesan and Campling’s writing tackles this challenging subject with care. Throughout the play, examples of terrorism are meticulously detailed, providing realism to events which are often unimaginable. The attempted assassination of young schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai is referred to, as well as far-right terrorist Anders Breivik’s massacre of 77 young people in 2011. Choosing to include attacks on young people is particularly vivid. The play is heard-hitting, but there are underlying elements of comedy in it, particularly from Simi Egbejuni David, who’s clownish antics brings bursts of lightness to the piece. Undercutting the intensity with humour is what makes this play so engaging, and creates a tone that doesn’t patronise audiences.
Giving young people an opportunity to discuss radicalisation in a safe environment is fundamental to preventing acts of domestic terrorism. This thought-provoking play, which is followed by a workshop when touring schools, is an accessible way to get these discussions going. Although aimed at young people, The Echo Chamber powerfully presents a subject that affects everyone, and shouldn’t be missed.
The Echo Chamber is at Spotlites until 28th August.