Examining The Lure Of ISIS In 'Another World' : Parallels A documentary play in London features actors performing the exact words, gathered from interviews, of Muslim mothers who lost children to ISIS, a U.S. general and a former Guantanamo detainee.
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Examining The Lure Of ISIS In 'Another World'

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Examining The Lure Of ISIS In 'Another World'

Examining The Lure Of ISIS In 'Another World'

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

"Another World: Losing Our Children To Islamic State" is a play being staged in London. The actors' lines are the exact words from interviews of mothers whose children went to ISIS. NPR's Lauren Frayer went to a performance and sent us this report.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "ANOTHER WORLD: LOSING OUR CHILDREN TO ISLAMIC STATE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing in foreign language).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: In a darkened theater, the first thing the audience hears is an Islamic State anthem. This is a play about young people seduced by the group. The main characters are three mothers whose children left their homes in Europe to join ISIS.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "ANOTHER WORLD: LOSING OUR CHILDREN TO ISLAMIC STATE")

NATHALIE ARMIN: (As Yasmine) She says to me, he's gone. I go, he's dead? She says he's gone to Syria.

FRAYER: The character of Yasmine, who wears a Muslim headscarf, is played by actor Nathalie Armin.

ARMIN: And she is the mother of 20-year-old Kareem, who told her he was going to Morocco for holiday with a friend. And it was only through one of her other children, her daughter, that she discovered that actually he'd gone to Syria.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "ANOTHER WORLD: LOSING OUR CHILDREN TO ISLAMIC STATE")

ARMIN: (As Yasmine) I heard this word Syria, Syria, and I felt the world fall on top of me. I didn't see it coming. I haven't done my job as a mother properly.

FRAYER: This is verbatim theatre, a mix of journalism and art. The whole script is taken directly from interviews with real people, including three mothers whom director Nicolas Kent interviewed at a community center in Brussels' largely Muslim neighborhood of Molenbeek.

NICOLAS KENT: We don't change anyone's words. We obviously have to cut them down because we have 50 hours of interviews and the play only lasts about two hours.

FRAYER: Over six months starting last summer, Kent also interviewed British anti-terrorism officials, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and General John Allen, who at the time was President Barack Obama's adviser on ISIS. All of their words form parts of this play. Actor Armin listened to tapes of the real Yasmine in French, even though she doesn't speak the language.

ARMIN: I was very taken by her pauses, and the rhythms of her speaking are what struck me while I was listening. I suppose that's inevitable if you don't actually understand what somebody's saying. You listen to it almost musically.

FRAYER: Just as Kent and his co-creator Gillian Slovo were finishing off their script and rehearsals were already underway, bombs went off in Paris and then later, Brussels.

KENT: So the story has surrounded us in every way. And then we started being at a distance to the story and we landed up absolutely in the center of the story.

FRAYER: Later on, when they returned to Brussels, they found out something terrible. Armin describes how they changed the ending of the play because of it.

ARMIN: At the end of the play, I take off my headscarf and I break out of character and I let the audience know that early in rehearsals, we went to Molenbeek to visit the characters that we play, the mothers. But the mother that I play wasn't there. And we discovered from the other mothers that the reason for this was because she'd found out her son had been in the Paris attacks.

KENT: And you can hear the audience gasp, as we did when we heard it.

FRAYER: Yasmine's son was one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up outside a Paris soccer stadium, November 13. His mother's real words of grief are part of this play, which closes this weekend at the National Theatre. Later this month, it'll be staged again at a high school in a poor, largely Muslim area of the British capital. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, London.

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