Socialist Worker

One cruel death but many ruined lives

by Paul Davies
Issue No. 1921

SILENT CRY is a play about the death in police custody of Arif Ahmed. The dialogue takes place in and around the home of the young man’s family, and focuses on how this avoidable tragedy threatens to pull them apart. It is based on documented evidence and interviews, and the story begins as Arif’s life ends.

A minimalist stage set provides a cold and unforgiving backdrop to the emotional heat generated by the dialogue. The family try to deal with their grief in different ways, but even these differences create friction. Arif’s father, who brought the family from Pakistan in the hope of a better life, works for the local council but spends all his spare time campaigning for justice.

Arif’s young wife consults self help books and tapes but, finding no solace in these, she turns to Allah. Arif’s mother tries to focus on the fact that life must go on.

Pivotal in all this is Arif’s younger brother. His inability to cope with his loss results in behaviour which provides a catalyst for all the other family members’ tensions.

Another dimension is provided by the character of Nina Desai, who heads the Campaign for Justice. She represents both a challenge to the white establishment and to the Asian community.

We never learn the full circumstances of Arif’s death, but we are given a taste of the intense atmosphere surrounding it by the skilful use of CCTV transcripts and images projected onto opaque screens.

Madani Younis’s play shows what happens when such tragedies take place. Silent Cry provides a deep insight into the impact of institutionalised racism both in the police and the whole establishment.

Silent Cry is at York Theatre Royal and will be touring all major cities in Britain. For details of dates go to

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Article information

Sat 2 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1921
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