Recent Events at Collington House by Matthew Solon

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Recent Events at Collington House by Matthew Solon. BBC Radio 4, 20, 23 Mar. 2015. Dir. John Dryden. Perf. Heather Craney, Neil D'Souza, Sam Dastor. BBCiPlayer to 22 Apr. 2015

The topic of inter-faith struggles has assumed an increasingly significant part of the public agenda. Matthew Solon's drama tackles the subject, with the action taking place in a Midlands secondary school with a large proportion of Muslim learners. Roz Taylor (Heather Craney), a divorcee in her mid-forties, tries her best to implement the institution's policy of tolerance and fairness towards learners of all races. Abdul Lateef Shah (Neil D'Souza), a member of the school governing board, keeps raising questions focusing on what he perceives as examples of intolerance and extremism. The two of them regularly argue during meetings, with Jaffer n Sadiq (Sam Dastor) acting as peace-maker. Deputy headteacher John Roberts (Philip Jackson) supports Roz Taylor while trying his best to keep the institution running smoothly.

The development of Solon's drama follows a predictable path, with Roz and Abdul regularly disagreeing while engaged in a struggle for power. Although I understand the play's purpose, I wonder whether the plot (based on conflict) is a suitable means for examining inter-faith struggles. The play simply reinforces entrenched positions and the impossibility of negotiation between people. I am not saying that such arguments don't exist, but I wonder whether director John Dryden might not have explored any possibilities for collaboration while acknowledging the importance of cultural and religious difference. One of the chief problems of the contemporary world is the lack of understanding between people of different faiths; there are different shades of Christianity and Islam that we need to become more conversant with before we can make any judgements.

On the other hand, "Recent Events at Collington House" remains resolutely contemporary in its depiction of a world based on absolutes and/or entrenched positions. This not only encompasses Abdul, but Roz as well; sometimes she spends too much time hiding behind the policies of her institution and not listening sufficiently. I only wish that the play had explored the question of how (and whether) that process of listening might be instituted at all levels of society.

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