A man stands outside a mosque. The imam brings him a cup of tea. A friendship is born. [The Cobbled Streets of Geneva] follows the developing interactions between the reserved, uncertain Adham and the assertively accepting Raushan, as they travel through Switzerland - a trip that gradually reveals their true feelings through the deception they present to the world.
Each scene is set by Raushan literally describing his surroundings, introducing each scene with the words: “Square bracket - image description.” It’s an interesting way to evoke the scenery and is cleverly woven into the plot as the story unfolds. Adham and Raushan make appealing companions for the span of the show; they present a contrasting pair, optimism vs pessimism, ebullience vs reserve, self-assurance vs insecurity. I particularly liked the use of physical space. In scenes where they should be close to one another (holding hands over a cafe table, for example), they actually sit several feet apart, denoting their lack of emotional closeness early on.
Layered within the amusing story of the two men’s journey towards each other are interesting explorations of different types of relationships. The gender reversal of a female employer attempting to abuse her position of power over a male employee is a clever one, especially given Adham’s physical dominance. And the show does a good job of challenging assumptions about people by looking at the two characters’ reactions to their views of each other. This is particularly effective when the edges of their fake relationship start to blur into reality, bringing stark relief to their insecurities and difficulties with open communication.
It was difficult to make out Raushan’s dialogue when he had his back to my part of the audience, and I found the timeline very confusing in places. The main part of the story took place on their trip to Switzerland, but it occasionally switched to different times and places, leaving scenes that felt disjointed and sometimes muddled.
The ending also felt a bit too neat, and a bit too easy. Issues were raised earlier about the difficulties of shifting back to regular life in London - but these were ignored on their actual return. Overall, though, this is a sweet and funny show, with hidden layers of social commentary.