PPP: Jinnistan

Nov 10 2022 | By More

★★★★☆    Frightening

Traverse: Tue 8 – Sat 12 Nov 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Jinnistan by Taqi Nazeer is the last in the current season at the Traverse of Oran Mor’s Play, Pie and a Pint. In many ways, they have saved the best till last.

Parents Malik and Layla are not overly worried about Asiya’s early return from a school trip. But Asiya, annoyed with her parents about being moved from Scotland to Pakistan, may be more than just a grumpy teenager…

Iman Akhtar with Avita Jay in Jinnistan. Pic PPP

Information in the show’s publicity and the opening scenes – not to mention the title – means that it is not much of a spoiler to say that this is something of a Scottish-Pakistani version of The Exorcist, and entirely fitting for a performance around Hallowe’en time.

Theatrical horror productions of recent years have tended to follow the Hollywood fashion for ‘jump-scares’, relying on loud noises, flashy lighting or sudden shocks to frighten. Thankfully, Nazeer’s play steers clear of such tactics, instead relying on the building up of tension, knowing that keeping the audience waiting in suspense can be much more effective than any cheap gimmicks.

theatrical effects

Which is not to say that there are no theatrical effects on display; Ross Kirkland’s lighting is beautifully atmospheric, particularly in the graveyard scenes, while Niroshini Thambar’s tremendous sound design is decidedly spooky.

Niloo-Far Khan’s direction, meanwhile, is extremely fine, making good use of the auditorium, in a production that benefits greatly from being staged in the more traditional theatrical space of Traverse One. While the venue itself may be roomier than Traverse Two, it seems decidedly claustrophobic at times, and the action feels exceptionally close to hand.

Taqi Nazeer in Jinnistan. Pic: PPP

Like all of the best horror stories, this has firm roots in the real world that makes its supernatural elements all the more believable. Both the family-drama strand and the more outré goings-on are well written and convincingly directed, and form a pleasingly coherent whole.

The performances, by Nazeer himself and Avita Jay as the parents, and Iman Akhtar as Asiya, also bridge the divide between the domestic and the horrific. Jay’s portrayal of a conflicted mother is a particularly strong one.

scores very highly

Not everything in the script is perfect; there are a couple of laboured humorous references, and the ending is something of a fudge (although this is admittedly an occupational hazard for the horror genre as a whole). Despite the setting in rural Pakistan, it also relies a little too heavily on recognisable horror tropes, even down to the ‘based on true events’ line.

Nevertheless, in its evocation of a particular place, the universality of its themes and the urgency of its staging, this production scores very highly.

Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 November 2022
Daily at 1.00 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Taqi Nazeer and Avita Jay in Jinnistan. Pic PPP


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