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Review of "I'm Muslamik, Don't Panik" by Bobak Champion

What tools do we use to tell our own stories, histories, traumas. How do we do so authentically. What scope can theatre offer as a space for healing?

Bobak Champions' "I’m Muslamic Don’t Panik” is a profound engagement with these questions. A number of different mediums - dance, spoken and digital media – are brought together to tell a story that is in equal parts personal and political.


The character at the heart of this piece, played and based on Bobak, powerfully, earnestly and passionately tells his story in his own authentic voice. Inasmuch as it is a sharp political satire on Islamophobia, it is as much about an individual learning to celebrate their history, and identity.

The non-linear format means the taut 60-minute running time flies by as the audience flit and oscillate to and from recollections of his upbringing in Bristol to encounters on the route of the Tehran marathon. All these vignettes come together like a rubiK’s cube, conveying a compelling character study. For this intimacy and insight, the piece is very much self-consciously theatrical. There are moments of audience participation where Bobak breaks from the story and approaches or interacts with the audience to . / bring us into the story?

On Bobak’s part, a professional dance artist, there’s a clear breakdown of traditional theatrical terms, where the fourth wall stays intact. Here we find the opposite. The energy and emotions of the audience are drawn deeper into the narrative through the earnest up-close encounters of the immediately loveable character he calls ‘The Purrsian’



At one point in the show a clip from a news report, focussing on an EDL protest, is projected at the back end of the room. Before the audiences, blown up on a huge screen, an EDL marcher is slurring incoherently, and it takes a second or two before we realise that the video clip is in fact a remixed satirical video that went viral in the early parts of the last decade. Bobak and two other performers, clinch on the ‘Muslamic Ray Guns’ line. Then take to the stage carrying toy gunsand begin dancing in unison. Discrimination and the palpable hatred that Muslims face in Britain becomes a kind of ammunition – instead of generating fear or retraction, it is instead mutated into a comic vignette that, whilst being funny, also points to the incomprehensible logic underpinning Islamophobia.

Inasmuch as the piece demonstrates different forms and genres converging, it also showcases Bobak’s deft and artistry as a performer. He is able play two characters in conversation with each other, switching between the two with sharp timing. This is theatre arguably at its simplest but also most technical. Breakdance meets conversation, and the bare, raw, but intimate space of the Barber studio enables audiences to sharpen their focus and really be part of Bobak’s world. There’s no shortage of personal testimony and performance exploring racism and dwelling on what it means to exist as a marginalised, othered identity in the world today. Bobak Champion is clearly conscious of this, and at the same time compelled to find a new way of telling the angle, not just for entertainment purposes, but out of an urgent necessity.

This is a genre pushing work that speaks to the limitation of traditional storying whilst simultaneously exploring the exciting possibilities that can emerge from binaries being torn down. The power and the gravitas of the piece emerges not only from the overarching narrative but also from the symbolic impact of its use of different tone and styles. a game changing work with energy to match. It’s a show that must be exhausting for Bobak Champion as a performer – that he has enough momentum to pull the story to its end is equally a testament to what a good performer he is and to the powerful contract that exists when audiences enter the performance space. We become witnesses and it is our energy and ability to listen to Bobak’s authentic voice and urgent stories which fuels and sustains a remit to explore, tackle and unfurl these vast and crucial ideas.

Image credit: Marso Riviere

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