Brown Boys Swim considers two young men on the cusp of change. 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 and produced by Fringe First award-winning The North Wall.
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 comments, I’ve always dreamt of taking a play that I had written to the Edinburgh Fringe, so I couldn’t be more delighted and honoured to see Brown Boys Swim – a piece that holds a hugely special place in my heart – come to life on the Pleasance stage. I hope the piece entertains and challenges the audience in equal measure but, most significantly, brings them face to face with the infectious joy between two Muslim friends who, despite their increasing rift, love each other deeply.
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.
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.