How do you deal with religious belief in the context of a society that is largely secular?
Karla Crome, playwright:I think that faith still plays a major part in the fabric of any society. I am an atheist myself, but i think it would be Naive to assume that religion doesn't affect me. Our newspapers and TV screens are bombarded with conflict in Gaza, scandals uncovered in the Catholic Church and we see increasing cases of Islamophobia and Anti- Semitism.
Most of our earliest memories involve hymns in assembly and a moral compass formed by 'God'. When we began creating our characters in 'Mush and Me', we all agreed that they should be Londoners- day to day they are more likely to discuss work, family and 'Made in Chelsea' than their religious beliefs. However, they have an inextricable link with their respective faiths- Orthodox Judaism and Shia Islam- which complicates their relationship with one another.
They share a mixture of guilt, pride and dependance on their religious traditions. Often these feelings conflict with the secular society they inhabit. It is that conflict that makes the characters complicated… and juicy.
Is the religious divide more powerful than the beliefs of the characters?
There are strong similarities between Judaism and Islam. They are both Abrahamic Religions, they both fast, they both forbid pork and recognise many of the same prophets and religious figures. Our characters are not Religious scholars, but they both recognise that their faith formulates their identity. They both have prejudices about each other which are formed more from cultural differences than religious ones- their education, family, diet, politics and routine.
Much of the piece sees the protagonists discover their own bias and hypocrisy, especially in relation to each other. As a result, they reassess their personal relationships with God. So while the cultural divide remains significant throughout the play, their subjective religious experience constantly vacillates.
What made theatre the best form to explore the ideas of the play?
That's a good question! We never questioned whether this would be more effective as a short film, radio play or novel - theatre was our first instinct. That said, there is something very theatrical about the theme. For many of us, our feelings on Religion are incredibly strong and passionate.
Therefore, there's merit in giving it the immediate, visceral treatment that only live theatre can offer. We also had a great deal of fun reading up on Yiddish phrases and Arabic sayings, as well as the physical conventions of prayer and worship. There is a rich physical and vocal language within religious philosophy which, in my opinion, is perfect for the stage.