REVIEW: Mohand and Peter, PSYCHEdelight (Southwark Playhouse)

PSYCHEdelight is a participatory theatre company which specialises in working with marginalised communities and aims to challenge the negative narrative often associated with refugees. Their latest production, Mohand and Peter, is a bicultural two hander celebrating Sudanese culture. Mummy and Crotchet went along to their press performance at Southwark Playhouse last night.

Mohand (Mohand Hasb Alrosol Abdalrahem) and Peter (Peter Pearson) are good friends with a lot in common. For one thing, they’re both actors pursuing their profession far from home, except it’s rather a lot easier for Peter to visit home whenever he fancies it. Having swapped the Tyne for the Thames, all Peter needs to do is hop on a train at King’s Cross but things aren’t quite so simple for Sudanese refugee Mohand. The only way he can head home is in his imagination. So that’s exactly what he does, taking Peter along for the ride.

Mohand Hasb Alrosol Abdalrahem and Peter Pearson in Mohand and Peter. Credit: José Farinha.

Together Mohand and Peter transport the audience out of Southwark and into Sudan, experiencing the sights, sounds and customs of Mohand’s homeland. Using clowning and ‘visual poetry’ they give us a sense of how it feels to be welcomed into a Sudanese community and what it means to be a part of that community, even from afar. The duo are fantastic at physical comedy, with Mohand playing a seemingly endless array of Sudanese characters while Peter makes a marvellous cow, camel and donkey!

Funny and fast paced, the show touches on the trauma of exile and the dangers of protesting, while remaining ultimately uplifting. It contains elements of both Arabic and English (with many performances also offering subtitles in both languages) and plays on the concept of miscommunication. There is also a particularly good gag about cultural appropriation. With a large Sudanese contingent in the audience, it was really special to witness the reactions to some of the text that we couldn’t understand. We may not have been able to follow what was being said but the language of laughter is universal!

PSYCHEdelight has  committed to providing a selection of free tickets for refugees and asylum seekers for every  performance, ensuring that the production is accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Speaking of wide audiences, it’s the sort of show which works just as well for children as it does for adults. Crotchet may have been the youngest person in the room on press night (unsurprising for a Friday night show) but she was laughing just as hard as all the adults and was disappointed that she had to go straight home for bed instead of sticking around for the live Sudanese music in the bar after the show (available for select performances only). Here’s what she had to say:

“It was very good I liked it when they were swimming in the Nile and it was super emotional. It was super good I loved it.”

Crotchet, age 10

There is a discount ticket offer available for families for matinee performances (use code “FAMILY”) and we would thoroughly recommend bringing along children. It’s probably best suited to key stage 2 and above but there’s plenty of physical comedy that would keep even younger children entertained.

The performance lasts around an hour and is followed by a short Q&A with the cast and director (and PSYCHEdelight founder) Sophie Bertrand Besse. This is a really nice touch, giving the audience a chance to learn more about the way in which the play was devised, shaped by Mohand’s personal experiences. It was also lovely to hear from some of the Sudanese audience members, particularly a lady who said that the show had taken her back to Sudan for the duration of the performance. It was an important reminder of how essential it is to see diverse and authentic stories told on stage. For some of us, the show gave us a chance to learn just a little about a country that we rarely hear much about apart from negative news. For others, it represented an opportunity to be transported back to the country they call home and to celebrate it at its best.

Mohand and Peter plays at Southwark Playhouse from 9 March to 2 April 2022. We received complimentary press tickets to the press night on Friday 11 March.