The Infidel - The Musical
Time Out says
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British Muslim Mahmud just wants an easy life – supporting Spurs, swigging beer and going to mosque. But then his son, Rashid, reveals that his fiancée’s stepfather is a notorious fundamentalist cleric. And not only that, but Mahmud discovers that he’s adopted. And his birth parents were Jewish.
Adapting his own 2010 film, David Baddiel’s comic tale of culture clash probably works better as a musical. There’s more smile than snarl here, and a heart-warming ending to Mahmud’s exploration of his identity. Although the show’s crammed with topical jokes, its teeth aren’t sharp. This is knockabout satire.
Baddiel and co-director Kerry Michael shove number plates onto sofas and make them taxis, and characters roll their eyes when someone starts singing. Such colourful meta-theatrics take the edge off the show’s creeping sentimentality and keep it bouncing along through its too many songs, with Erran Baron Cohen’s music varying from funny pastiche to forgettable.
Kev Orkian is winningly hapless as Mahmud, blundering through a succession of ill-informed attempts at ‘being’ Jewish. He and ‘The Bill’s Andrew Paul – as foul-mouthed Jewish neighbour Lenny – make a good double-act at a disastrous bar mitzvah. The script gleefully sends up ridiculous religious clichés.
From Alexander Andreou’s boo-hissable cleric, Arshad, to the sitcom-style shenanigans the characters get up to, you’d have to strain to be offended by this. If anything, that’s the biggest problem here. Although fun, it’s soft-soaped too often – sniggering when it needs to bite. We’re never pushed out of our comfort zone.
The show drags out its jokes and some pithy one-liners don’t prevent the second half’s plea for accepting people as they are – complete with Quran quoting – from tipping into over-earnest cheesiness. But with the real world so sadly short of happy endings right now, the fairytale one here feels welcome.