Writer: Zia Ahmed
Director: Anna Himali Howard
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
At first glance, I Wanna Be Yours is a tender romantic comedy, charting the uneven path of true love for a fairly typical modern couple. However, Zia Ahmed’s 80-minute one-act play is much more than that. It incorporates remarkable insights into multicultural Britain, showing how racism, often non-malicious and unintended, finds its way into all the nooks and crannies of everyday life.
Like the writer, Habeeb (Ragevan Vasan) is a poet from North London. He is a Moslem, the son of a Pakistani immigrant family. Ella (Emily Stott) is a Yorkshire lass who has moved to South London. They meet, they fall in love and the play sees them moving through Ramadan, Christmas, birthdays, a holiday and meetings with each other’s families, forever navigating around the treacherous minefield of political correctness. All very normal it would seem, but somehow not. Racism is the elephant in every room that the couple enters and they give it a human name – André.
Ahmed makes his points without preaching and rarely touching on defeatism or negativity. He knows that comedy is the sharpest tool in a playwright’s box and he uses it with precision, adding astute observations on working-class London life. Vasan and Stott tune into the writer’s humour perfectly, developing an on-stage chemistry which makes the whole thing entirely believable.
Director Anna Himali Howard’s production relies heavily on movement, directed by Jennifer Jackson. The appearance of a sign language interpreter could perhaps suggest an interloper in the corner of the stage, causing an irritating distraction. In fact, Rachael Merry’s contribution gives exactly the opposite effect. In an inspired innovation, she plays an integral part in the choreography, used almost as an animated prop, throwing in some hilarious facial expressions for a bonus.
This is a joint production between Paines Plough and Tamasha and the simplicity of the staging will make it easy to take the play to communities all across the country. Here we have a studio space, a few chairs for the audience and a shabby carpet. All that is needed is for three actors, hopefully as good as these, to take off their shoes and socks and the show can go on. An eye-opening delight.
Runs until 18 January 2020 | Image: The Other Richard