Photo by Mark Douet: Katherine Manners as 2 and Ida Bonnast as 1
The man who created an unprecedented storm of publicity in Sweden over his open letter about “Sweden’s closet racists” – which sparked 120,000 likes on Facebook and more than 500,000 clicks on the article online – has a play on in London. The hundred we are is tucked away in a little-known theatre in Hackney, east London, and it’s very good. That shouldn’t be a surprise because his open letter about racial profiling is brilliantly powerful and succinct. Its contents will be recognised by almost every Briton who is a little darker than the average or dresses differently. More to the point, it should also be read by every police officer, every official, every shopworker, probably by everyone. Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s 2013 open letter was to Sweden’s justice minister, Beatrice Ask, in response to her radio comments defending racial profiling of passengers on Stockholm’s subway. Khemiri, born in Sweden to a family originally from Tunisia, talks of seeing his father being repeatedly picked out at passport control, watching films featuring dark men committing crimes, being chased by skinheads, followed around shops by security guards, being arrested and told to wait in a police van for no reason. Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/opinion/sunday/swedens-closet-racists.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=opinion It’s sad, frustrating, true for millions of people. Luckily, his father taught him that he’d always have to be “a thousand times better than everyone” and he is now one of Sweden’s leading novelists and playwrights.
His play at the Yard Theatre, The Hundred We Are, is a three-hander about one woman. It’s a clever idea, in which the three – the radical, idealistic, activist younger self; the middle-aged career-minded mother; and the older woman coming to terms with life and beginning to lose her marbles – fight it out. It’s about our changing motives, about true and false memory, about illusion and reality, about the stories we tell about ourselves in order to make life bearable, about the difficulty of defining who we are and what we want. It vividly depicts how hard it is to know our own identity. Yet, as Khemiri showed in his letter to the minister, some people find it all too easy to tell us who we are and where we belong, The Hundred We Are is at the Yard Theatre, Queen’s Yard, E9 5EN, £10/£12.50, until 6 November. Info: [email protected]
Review by: Daniel Nelson Photo: The Hundred We Are at The Yard Theatre.
Katherine Manners as 2 and Ida Bonnast as 1. Photograph by Mark Douet