Review: ‘The P Word’ Explores the Queer Experience in Modern Britain
Waleed Akhtar’s The P-Word is an emotional story of two queer men of Pakistani-heritage who build a unique and unlikely friendship. Londoner Bilal, who prefers to be called Billy, who by the day is a creative and at night is hooking up with numerous via the Grindr app. Zafar, in contrast, flees homophobic persecution in Pakistan to seek asylum in the UK.
The play is packed with drama, romance and hard hitting reality as two worlds in one Britain collide. When you’re asylum-seeking, you live in an alternate reality and within the play you get a glimpse of it through Zafar’s tearful soliloquies. Whilst with Bilal, we see the internal racism he has through his romantic and sexual preferences and how systemic racism, as a whole, built a negative image to be Pakistani in Bilal’s eyes.
It’s a real exploration of the intersectionality of the identity of a gay Pakistani man; how culture, religion, nationality and race interact with sexuality. The play illustrates how to have those difficult traumatic conversations, hold a safe space for one another and most importantly fill in the gaps in understanding with love. Even the midst of identity issues and asylum-seeking, Waleed’s brilliance is best experienced in the play’s humour. From the quick-witted lines on the Pakistani-British experience to Zafar’s slapstick gestures; the play does a great job in making you laugh, cry and despair all at the same time. It’s almost a Bollywood film with a romcom ending to melt hearts but suddenly an abrupt slap of reality happens to bring you back down to earth
Waleed’s play explores the theme of isolation within the brown gay experience; from family, from religion, from culture, from white people, from those who live in a world of acceptance. It’s a must-see for all to get an honest portrayal of modern Britain.
THE P WORD
Written by Waleed Akhtar
Directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike
Cast – Esh Alladi and Waleed Akhtar
In Theatre 9 September – 22 October