Fatima is just like any other Canadian teenage girl: she likes hanging out with her friends, gets nervous around boys and rebels against her parents. The difference is, Fatima wears a hijab and sometimes that can draw some unwanted attention and misperceptions from her peers. When anti-Muslim graffiti shows up at her school, Fatima’s parents transfer her to a different one. While navigating the new territory of her school, Fatima meets Jorah, a boy with a bad reputation. An unlikely attraction brings these opposites together, testing each of their personal boundaries. Jabber is a polished piece of theatre for young audiences that does an excellent job of creating conversation and asking difficult questions about cross-cultural respect and the choices we make to stay true to ourselves.
Marcus Youssef has done a wonderful thing with Jabber. Rather then presenting a linear narrative and characters that are decidedly one way or another, instead he proposes each character and the choices they may or may not make – “Let’s say Fatima changes her mind.” The actors even acknowledge who they are, “Let’s say I’m a 24 year-old woman. Let’s say I am playing a 16 year-old girl.” What this does is open up discussion, and does not play dumb to young audiences. Youssef is asking us to consider all possibilities. The actors play well with one another, having toured around the country with it, they are well attuned to one another and embody their characters effortlessly. Amanda Kellock’s direction is clean and makes the most of James Lavoie’s simple set of chairs and tall metal frames. We are easily transported from various halls at school to home. An effective design choice was including scene/location titles, as they would be seen on Facebook, reminding us how prevalent social media is amongst high school students.
Jabber examines stereotyping and overcoming cultural differences to find mutual understanding. It is not afraid to deal with difficult subject matter such as discrimination, domestic abuse, sexuality and the danger of online sharing on social media. Jabber is a great show to bring any high school age student to.
What I liked most about this play was that there were no judgments made on the characters, but rather we are reminded several times: there are many choices we can make in any circumstance, but every action has its consequences.