REVIEW: Daytime Deewane (Half Moon Theatre)

Half Moon Theatre is one of our favourite theatre companies because they place an emphasis on engaging often-excluded artists and audiences. Unlike some children’s theatre companies, who concentrate on the primary school market, Half Moon regularly produce work for all ages, including teenagers. Their latest production is an immersive gig theatre show for ages 13+, inspired by the daytime raves of 1990s British Asian culture. Daytime Deewane premiered at Half Moon last week ahead of a UK tour. We were invited along on the weekend to check out this exciting new show.

Written by Azan Ahmed, Daytime Deewane explores the joys and challenges of living with a multi-cultural identity as a teenager. It’s 1997 and the audience is invited to London’s last ever daytime rave, where we meet cousins, Farhan (Omi Mantri) and Sadiq (Ryan Rajan Mal). The pair are there for different reasons, but both are looking for a place to escape their own lives and immerse themselves in a world where they are free to explore what it means to be South Asian, male and Muslim in Britain. Over the course of an hour, we gain an insight into their individual lives while getting our own taste of an 80s and 90s cultural phenomenon.

It’s a very immersive production, which transports the audience into the daytime raves which many British Asian teenagers may hear their own parents talk about today. There is no barrier between the performers and audience, and no set place to sit as you enter the auditorium. You are free to stand around the edge of the performance space or sit on one of several large boxes in the middle. Many people also chose to sit on the floor when we attended. It’s your space and you can do what you want, but it’s also a crowded club and the performers are going to get up and close. (All performances are relaxed performances and there are also some spaces to sit to avoid interaction.)

The show begins organically, with the performers interacting with individuals before they command the attention of the entire room. Dressed smartly in school uniform, Farhan is here for the first time and is very unsure of himself. We watch as he tries to find his way in, second-guessing whether he should have bunked off school in the first place and wondering if he should just head home. But he eventually finds self-assured Sadiq, who is absolutely not going to let him leave without experiencing the joy of a daytimer. He just needs to ditch the school uniform and find his swagger.

Ahmed’s writing is sharp, fusing humour with some harder hitting moments and cleverly integrating spoken word in a way which feels very natural. Mantri plays the role of an awkward teenager brilliantly, leading to some very funny interactions with audience members as he tries to chat them up. Rajan Mal offers an assured performance as the cocky older cousin, whose confident exterior and effortless dance conceal dark secrets. The production is well directed by Chris Elwell, with movement direction from Hamza Ali which makes full use of the performance space. Maariyah Sharjil’s evocative set and costume design leave the audience with no doubt as to which era we are in, while Somin Griffin-Dave’s sound design brings the club to life.

Running at 60 minutes, it’s nicely paced and a good length for the target audience. There is also a Q&A at the end, giving audiences the opportunity to ask questions of the cast and creatives. This section is very informal and there’s no pressure to stay, but it’s a great way to get to know a bit more about the show, and to hear from other audience members. There were a few people in attendance on Saturday who had experienced daytime raves firsthand, and it was really interesting to learn about their experiences.

Overall, Daytime Deewane is an engaging and thought-provoking production which offers a rare insight into the British Asian experience and contains themes which will resonate for many. Another fantastic touring production for young audiences from Half Moon Theatre which is well worth a watch if it heads near you.

Daytime Deewane played at Half Moon Theatre from 10 to 15 November 2022 ahead of a UK tour. We received a complimentary press ticket to the performance on Saturday 12 November.

CONTENT WARNING: Daytime Deewane includes references to self-harm. As part of depicting the experience of British South Asians in the 1990s, at times characters in the play refer to language which is racially offensive.