THEATRE REVIEW: The P Word at the Bush Theatre

By Neil Durham

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHEN?: Saturday 10 September 2022, opens 14 September, runs to 22 October 2022 RUNTIME: 90 minutes (no interval) Update: run extended to 29 October 2022

Bilal – or Billy as he prefers to be known (pictured right above) – is 31 and has lots of anonymous sex but wonders why he’s never found the 1 or even a boyfriend.

  • Read on for reasons including why this is 1 of the best new plays performed this year

Zafar is 33 and is seeking asylum in the UK after fleeing Pakistan fearing for his life after his father had his married male lover murdered when he discovered their affair.

Billy, played by author Waleed Akhtar, works in fashion, fatshames a colleague called Jason and doesn’t appear to have much in common with Esh Alladi’s necessarily serious Zafar when they bump into each other on a night out and end up in Billy’s London flat.

Yet friendship blossoms thanks in part to a shared love of Bollywood movies and, just when you think that it might develop into something more, Zafar stares deportation hard in the face and Billy has to ask himself what he really wants.

The P Word is written in such an accessible way that its language might be something you hear down the pub with its ‘down with brown’ and ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’ references.

Its characters are lovingly drawn and Billy’s journey, in particular, is compelling. He might not have been promoted at work but he does open up to ‘fat’ Jason, realising later that he’s a person and might actually offer a solution to the problem he is facing.

His encounter with Zafar – and the realisation that his situation is life or death – puts his own problems, as difficult as though they might have initially appeared, into stark perspective.

Esh Alladi has an incredibly moving moment towards the end of this original and very funny play where he steps out of character and it reminds us what a brilliant performance he has given and the importance of always acting with kindness and compassion.

Akhtar’s Billy is buoyed by bravado but realises eventually that it’s his behaviour which is at the root of his lack of romantic success.

We won’t reveal the final act of this tremendous two-hander but it reminded of the best of the most famous romcom movies like those by Richard Curtis yet had such a clever sidestep that the harsh realities of such difficult situations rang true.

Director Anthony Simpson-Pike offers us a circular stage which revolves, is divided into semi circles, and allows our cast to both prowl and peacock and wander contemplatively around it offering engagement with the audience in the round.

We’re not ashamed to say we had tears in our eyes at curtain down and doubtless The P Word will appear on our Best New Play monstas shortlist when it’s unveiled from late November.

The P Word? An F word from us – fabulous.

  • Pictures by Craig Fuller via Facebook courtesy Bush Theatre Tickets
  • Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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