Brown Boys Swim: A Delightful Dive into Cultural Waters

‘Brown Boys Swim’ is Karim Khan’s subtle and comical drama about two young Muslim boys learning to swim while battling society and identity.

Brown Boys Swim: A Delightful Dive into Cultural Waters

The play has earned well-deserved accolades

If you’ve ever been to a pool party, you know the excitement that bubbles in the air. But what if you couldn’t swim?

Well, welcome to the uproarious world of Mohsen and Kash, two best friends gearing up for Jess Denver’s pool party – the only issue is, they can’t swim. 

They’re about to dive headfirst into the deep end of hilarity, heartfelt moments, and a crash course in aqua-acrobatics.

Written by the brilliant Karim Khan and directed by John Hoggarth, Brown Boys Swim recently splashed onto the stage at The Rep Theatre in Birmingham, making waves in the world of theatre.

This sensational show is like a cannonball of culture and comedy, with halal Haribo and chicken wings as the secret ingredients fuelling the adventures of these endearing characters.

This is more than just a story of two friends trying to learn to swim.

As you join Kash and Mohsen at the poolside of their local leisure centre, you’ll witness their bickering, banter, and valiant attempts to blend in with the locals.

Drawing inspiration from tragic real-life incidents, the play subtly delves into the factors that prevent many young South Asians from learning how to swim.

Brown Boys Swim: A Delightful Dive into Cultural Waters

Against the backdrop of Oxford, during a time when Islamophobia is rampant, the hurdles faced by these young Muslim boys are as palpable as the water surrounding them.

The sights they receive at the swimming baths, unfairly stigmatised as drug dealers at school and under the kosh of their families’ expectations are all instances put forward by the best friends. 

They vividly display microaggressions and everyday racism from the public in a comical yet impactful way. 

At the heart of Brown Boys Swim lies a remarkable and boyish camaraderie, vividly embodied by the talented actors Kashif Ghole and Ibraheem Hussain.

Hussain’s portrayal of Mohsen, an introspective dreamer aspiring to attend Oxford University, is a testament to his acting prowess.

While Ghole’s depiction of Kash, an exuberantly confident bundle of energy, conceals adolescent insecurities just beneath the surface.

Unified by their shared community, culture, and history, their evolution from friends to something more akin to brothers is both heartwarming and profoundly relatable.

The pair go back and forth in their dialogue and their friendship is so authentic that you cannot help but feel for them when they argue.

They both want the best for each other and their affection runs deep.

Whilst it’s only the two boys in play, the emotion they get across is worth a cast of 100 members. 

Under the astute direction of John Hoggarth, the production immerses the audience in the chlorine-laden pool environment with precision.

The sounds of waves and muffled conversations create a rich and immersive atmosphere in the echoing, tiled room.

During the underwater sequences, the choreography is so enriching that you forget you’re looking at a stage. 

The main method in the way this is achieved is via a long-wheeled bar that serves as lighting, a stage prop, a secret compartment for outfits, and a disguise for the characters. 

Furthermore, one of the exceptional attributes of Khan’s script is its unassuming authenticity.

It refrains from over-explaining for the benefit of a predominantly white audience, instead seamlessly integrating the characters’ struggles with culture, identity, and religion into the narrative’s fabric.

English and Urdu words intermingle in their conversations, but in a way in which the audience automatically understands the context. 

This is storytelling at its most genuine.

Brown Boys Swim is an engaging and enlightening production.

It takes its audience on a journey filled with laughter and cultural insights while unflinchingly addressing significant societal issues.

Karim Khan delves into the extraordinary pressures faced by young Muslim men, delivering a performance that’s fierce, funny, and full of heart.

The laughter and moments of reflection will keep you afloat as you navigate the turbulent waters of their journey.

The play has earned well-deserved accolades, including the prestigious Fringe First and the 2022 BBC Popcorn Writing Award.

Following sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and Soho Theatre, Brown Boys Swim is now embarking on a national tour, and it’s easy to see why.

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

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