IN BRIEF Articulate and heartfelt play about fighting for love set against a racist environment is strongly played and directed
“Love is the only thing I’m sure of” says Haseeb to Ella during a tense discussion about their relationship. But how do they cope with the pressures of being a young interracial couple? And how can they deal with family prejudices and conflicting loyalties when they are trying to make a life of their own?
Haseeb, a poet meets Ella, an actor at a workshop that Ella is running. We see them grow closer as they go through the delicate, uncharted stages of forming a loving relationship.
Zia Ahmed’s script starts bright and playful, with the excitement and tensions of establishing a relationship carefully and joyfully described, but as the family expectations and outside prejudice slowly weigh in, the characters find themselves under increasing pressure from all sides (as well as from within). In a subtly shifting emotional landscape, darkness slowly creeps in as the forces swirling around and between them threaten their relationship.
A surprise trip presents an opportunity to flee family and focus on each other, giving them room to breathe their own air, and space to deal with the “elephant in the room” between them.
Fleshed out with small, human incidents both funny and sad, this is a well-rounded and relatable play which skilfully captures the youthful enthusiasm of finding love set against the destructiveness of ignorance and prejudice.
The performances are detailed, well-pitched and full of chemistry. One feels for them both, worn down by conflicting pressures of family, prejudice and work. And yes, you really want them to succeed together.
Ragevan Vasan as Haseeb is by turns endearingly bright eyed, fragile and quick; it is genuinely sad to watch his youthful optimism being drained by his environment. The script cleverly integrates (when we least expect it) Haseeb’s poetic talents which are brought to bear upon his despair at being disrespected, which allows him to speak poignantly in a poetic manner about his inner feelings. Emily Stott as Ella subtly captures her character’s initial caution and slow relaxing into the relationship. She makes us believe that Ella is working hard to make it work as she carefully treads each step along the journey. For both characters, the script’s demanding blending of fantasy and reality elements succeeds through the quality of performances and sensitive direction by Anna Himali Howard.
The play also ingeniously integrates Rachael Merry the BSL signer into the onstage action, who as well as signing heroically, provides some humorous moments and is a useful third person for the two leads to play off.
Although the “open” ending risks leaving the audience divided, this is an articulate, heartfelt and hopeful play where we are allowed to hope that- just perhaps – love might conquer all.
The 80 minutes running time flew all too quickly.
I WANNA BE YOURS plays at the Bush Theatre until 18th January 2020. Details and tickets here
Read an interview with Rachael Merry – the play’s BSL signer – on the Bush Theatre’s website here