On Thursday 25th August 2022, our new show Waswasa: Whispers in Prayer opened its doors at the Patrick Studio of the Birmingham Hippodrome to a packed audience.

In our first major production since the pandemic, droves of the community, including those who have never visited a theatre before, joined us as we began our 9-day run of our truly immersive show. A beautifully diverse audience of Muslims and non-Muslims alike packed into the Patrick Studio by meandering through the prayer tunnel, surrounded by graffitied prayer mats and the deepest, innermost personal prayers of a community.

“Ya Allah, let us not lose faith in your mercy – Ameen”

“ Ya Allah, grant my mother Jannah (heavenly paradise)”

“Dear Allah, grant us all a place in heaven x x x x ”

Soul City Arts brings stories, voices and realities of an often unheard community into extraordinary spaces as we transformed the Patrick Studio into a part art installation, part performance space and part exhibition.

The evening kicked off with two performances led by lead actor Mustafa Chaudhary as audiences moved from the prayer tunnel, immersing their thoughts in the thoughts and prayers of others, evoking an emotional connection with people they have never met before.

In the performance space, an intimate and mesmerising set took the form of campfire like storytelling as the world of projected film, live performance and movement took the audience on a journey of Islamic Prayer, the struggles, the triumphs and the grasping for focus in world full of distractions and those whispers that encourage to not follow the path that is best for us (Waswasa).

As the story climaxed in the physical act of Islamic prayer, audiences moved into the exhibition part of the show where Birmingham’s world famous Qur’an, the oldest in the world, an on-loan replica from Birmingham University sat in its equal glory and mystique.

Audiences leaving the show gave their reflections on our own prayer wall with reflections including:

WASWASA – Whispers in Prayer is an immersive theatrical experience by artist Mohammed Ali that explores the act of Islamic prayer and what that means in a modern, secular society. Presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival as part of the Commonwealth Games.

The physical act of prayer now extends beyond religious spaces to places such as parks and city-squares; it spills over into our everyday worlds. It is even visible in sports arenas with athletes prostrating to the ground or raising hands to the sky in moments of triumph. Can we draw parallels between an act of personal faith and our quest to achieve a higher state of focus? The audience is invited to walk through a combination of art installation, live performance and projected film that disrupt the conventions of theatre, placing them at the very heart of the story.

Two types of experiences are available. A Walkthrough Experience is for those who don’t get a chance to see the full performance, but offers the audience an opportunity to walk through the captivating Waswasa set; the “graffitied” prayer mat tunnel created together with the community as well as an opportunity to view a reproduction of Birmingham’s world-famous Qur’an. Unlike the full Performance, there will be video snapshots of the storyline played on screens to give a sense of the narrative.

The full Performance is a greater immersive encounter, where all of the above is experienced, but includes a full live performance. The ‘Performance’ experience offers an intimate audience a deeper enthralling insight via a live actor, who explores the physical act of Islamic prayer, the triumphs and the struggles. We recommend the full Performances if you are lucky enough to get tickets!

Mohammed Ali together with his Soul City Arts team aim to demystify this familiar yet misunderstood tradition of Islamic prayer through an extraordinary multi-disciplinary show that will challenge our perceptions.

Tickets on sale and showing till Saturday September 3rd 2022.

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