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SINCE summer 2015, teachers have a statutory duty under the UK Government's Prevent strategy to report to police pupils they suspect of showing sings of extremist behaviour. Children have been referred for wearing a pro-Palestinian wristband, using the phrase “eco-terrorist” and, in the case of one 4 year-old-boy, for a misunderstanding after he drew his dad cutting a cucumber.

The Echo Chamber, a play for young people co-written by Peter Campling, a head teacher at a London comp for seven years, addresses a very real need, and school performances include a resource pack for teachers.

A clever conceit, it follows two older and two younger actors and their attempts to develop a piece for young people on contemporary extremism, taking in a young girl's online romance with an idealistic Jihadi, an alienated Welsh boy drawn to the extreme right and the covert affair between a US journalist and a Syrian blogger.

All are rooted in real life – the blogger is based on the anonymous author of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

And while this makes for more of a succession of bullet-points rather than a satisfying theatrical narrative, it will certainly provoke discussion and challenge popular beliefs.

It's to their credit that they neither shy from the crimes of revolting white supremacist Anders Brevik or the horror of what life under Daesh is really like.

That scrapbook form is maybe necessary to include so many aspects of an increasingly complex issue. Brave and necessary, The Echo Chamber demands a wider audience.

Reviewed: 20th August 2016

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.

Reviewer: Eda Nacar
Reviewed: 16th August 2016

Trimaran Productions

The Echo Chamber

The Echo Chamber @spotlites @edfringe

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Sun 14 th - Sun 28th August 2016

11:45am (50 mins)

From England

Exploring the issue of radicalisation and the powerful allure of online extremism.

Why do some British teenagers leave for Syria to become Jihadi brides and fight?

Why are others being drawn to the far right?

What role does religion, politics and cultural identity play in this?

A grown-up play, currently on a high profile national tour of secondary schools.

‘Engaging, challenging, entertaining. A very powerful production. See it!’ (James Howarth, Principal, Hathaway Academy).
‘Tackles the difficult questions head on. A really valuable resource’ (Sophie Young, Department for Education).
‘A fascinating play, very well performed’ (Oxfam Education).

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Group discount: 10% off for groups of 10+

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