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The Battle of Green Lanes

by Cosh Omar

"Kerry Michael kicks off his tenure as the Theatre Royal's new director by presenting an intriguing first play by a young Turkish-Cypriot actor, Cosh Omar. It's sometimes a bit messy and ill-organised, but it gives you a real sense of what it's like to be a young Turk living in London and of the tensions with the Greek Cypriots in and around north London's Green Lanes.

Omar himself plays the hero, Erol, in desperate search of his identity. His father runs a cafe that proudly sports posters of Ataturk. His uncle, busy doing property deals in Cyprus, is an even more defiant patriot. But Erol's best mates, including Maria whom he hotly fancies, are all Greek Cypriots. His sense of confusion is intensified by a pair of Muslim missionaries who seek to persuade him to abandon his western existence and join the fight to create an Islamic state.

The play captures well the way the past, for Turkish Cypriots, constantly bears down on the present. Old Turkish men invoke the heroism of Gallipoli. A romantic mother rhapsodises about an "an ethnographical fruit cake" in which Greek and Turkish Cypriots were once happily mixed. Meanwhile, the Muslim ideologues fervently preach about the way the west has divided Islam by fostering a competitive nationalism. But, although Omar vividly conveys the multiple pressures on a young Turk, his play doesn't so much grow organically as lurch from one illustrative point to another.

Omar convincingly embodies the bereft, confused hero. And Kerry Michael's production, neatly designed by Yannis Thavoris, boasts lively supporting performances from George Georgiou as the hero's closeted best friend, Elena Pavli as his cheerfully promiscuous girl and Rez Kempton as a persuasive Islamic recruiting agent. Whatever its dramatic deficiencies, the play certainly annexes new theatrical territory."

Michael Billington THE GUARDIAN October 2004

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