The Infidel

Our critics rating: 
Thursday, 16 October, 2014
Review by: 
Mark Shenton

While the West End readies for a new stage musical version of the 2010 British film Made in Dagenham, the East End is currently offering a musical of another movie from the same year The Infidel. And while we can question the ongoing obsession for turning movies into musicals, there's something so sweet and sincere and tender about The Infidel that I'm not going to issue a fatwa against them.

Its beguiling sense of innocence helpfully disguises, of course, a more serious purpose, which is a courageous, rather than outrageous, skewering of religious differences and intolerance. It's done so via the quirky story of a British-born Muslim family man Mahmud Nasir, who discovers that he was in fact adopted as a baby but had been born to a Jewish family and his birth name was in fact Solomon "Solly" Shimshillewitz.

As played with comic openness by Kev Orkian, he's so inherently likeable that he makes us care for his plight as he tries now, aged 44, to come to terms with his inner Jew. It's quite a provocation, and Baddiel's book and lyrics, set to Erran Baron Cohen's mostly bland tunes, follows his journey with quite a lot of wit as he is led on a tour of Jewishness by his taxi driver neighbour Lenny.

Meanwhile, his son Rashid is about to marry Ji-Ji, whose new stepfather is a fundamentalist Muslim preacher (and who has a religious surprise of his own awaiting him), to provide another plot strand. Though some of it is over-extended - the stage version manages to add an hour to the running time of the film - this is a new British musical with punch and point.


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