This autumn, The North Wall Arts Centre in Summertown presents its first home-grown production since the Fringe First award-winning E8 in 2019. Brown Boys Swim by Karim Khan (recipient of Riz Ahmed’s Left Handed Films and Pillars Fund inaugural fellowship) examines the pressures that surround young Muslim men today in this lyrical coming-of-age tale, directed by John Hoggarth, the venue’s Co-Director.
Brown Boys Swim considers two young men on the cusp of change. Boisterous, horny, self-opinionated best friends Mohsen and Kash aren’t going to let the fact they can’t swim get in the way of nabbing an invite to the biggest event of term – a pool party. Fuelled by halal Haribo and platters of chicken wings, the hapless pair tackle cramped cubicles, cold showers and skin-tight trunks as they race to teach themselves how to be at one with the water. But learning how to swim is more than just a drop in the deep end – and it’s not long before this new way of moving begins to shift how they see each other and themselves.
Kash and Mohsen are about to embark on different paths but are tied by an incredibly special bond. What happens to that seemingly unbreakable bond when boys become men, and they find themselves pulled into opposite directions? Can their friendship truly last the test of time?
Considering how systemic racism and societal pressures push certain people along a relentless current, Brown Boys Swim examines how we can be prevented from being and understanding our most authentic selves. This exhilarating play looks deeper at the communities who are consciously and unconsciously forbidden from spaces like pools – where the strange looks and other micro-aggressions they receive are possibly a sign of something more insidious.
Karim Khan is an alumnus of The North Wall’s ArtsLab programme - an artist development programme for early-career artists. The relationship with Karim and The North Wall has been developing since 2018 and, as well as being co-
commissioners on this project, they have worked together to develop the play across the last year with John Hoggarth providing dramaturgical support.
Karim Khan comments, “The heart of the play is two young Muslim men who've grown up in Oxford, just like I have. I couldn't be more honoured and excited for the piece - which holds a special place in my heart - to perform in front of our wonderful Oxford audiences - to both the communities its representing and its incredible friends and neighbours.”
Director John Hoggarth comments, “I love plays that take us by surprise and challenge our assumptions. I was immediately drawn to this fresh and timely 'rites of passage’ story about two young Muslim men growing up, fitting in and striking out. Brown Boys Swim is a funny, fierce and insightful play that explores what happens when a friendship is tested to breaking point. It is also play set in Oxford and written by an Oxford writer. Karim has crafted a story that places the action in a community he knows well and gives a voice to residents of our city who rarely represented on stage.”
Performance Dates: Thursday 22 – Saturday 24 September 8pm
Location: The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JN Box Office Tickets are available from www.thenorthwall.com / 01865 319450
Full Price: £14 // Concession: £12 // Under 25: £10