dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Show takes us into a high-tec world but can we trust it?
Writer and theatre-maker Javaad Alipoor takes audiences on a hurtling journey into an online world where reality and fantasy are confused and abused. In a show which is part interaction, part lecture and part story-telling, he uncovers the dark side of the web and reveals how easily people can be enticed into extremism.
Using spoken voice, film, digital, the internet and a WhatsApp group with the audience members, The Believers Are But Brothers bombards us with facts, fictions, stats and narrative – all unsettling. Into this maze of technology, Alipoor weaves the stories of three young men, all of whom follow threads on the internet which change their destinies.
There's Atif, who wants to join ISIS as a soldier but isn't up to the grade, there's Mirwan who wants to teach the children of war-torn Syria and there's Ethan, sitting in his room in America venting his white macho supremacist venom through his computer screen. Their fates become intermingled in a way none could have imagined solely through the use of the web and social media.
Running alongside, Alipoor shares his research for the show which saw him connecting with racists and ISIS recruiters on social media with apparent ease and delving into websites where horrific graphic images are entertainment. Scarily, as he points out: "All this is just two or three clicks away."
It's a shadowy world where fact blurs into fiction, images and messages are twisted and used to become something else and where superpowers can influence decisions in other countries. In the show, Alipoor opens up countless questions about our modern age – an era in which people can anonymously rip apart the reputation of another, where images of torture and decapitation become propaganda tools sent round the world in seconds and where people become depersonalized into types who are 'the other'.
It's a complex and, at times, bewildering journey as Alipoor races from one subject to another – all interlinked by this idea of extremism being peddled through our screens. He touches on cultural debates from Trump to Russian interference in the American elections, from American gun crime to the ability of tech savvy hackers to take over someone's life and from comedy frogs through to conspiracy theories.
En route, Alipoor also creates new ways of theatrical interaction through the WhatsApp group which sees him messaging the audience while members also share their views and stories with complete strangers who just happen to be in the same room. It's a perfect metaphor for the inter-connectedness and yet anonymity of social media.
It's a dizzying and in some ways terrifying world in which we, even as we participate by switching on our screens, are entering a world we cannot control and often cannot even trust. In a provocative and thought-provoking hour-long production, Alipoor leaves us wary of even hitting the on button.
Co-directed by Alipoor and Kirsty Housley, The Believers Are But Brothers won the 2017 Scotsman Fringe First Award and is currently on tour. In Birmingham, it is being performed in the Patrick Studio for two nights, November 22-23.