Navigating the vicissitudes in a relationship can be tricky at the best of times, but cross-cultural unions more often than not face additional difficulties.
So it is with Ella (Eleanor Barkla) and Hasseb (Oz Malik).
The pair meets at a performance workshop. They are from opposite sides of the Thames. He is a poet and she is an actor hired to help him with his enunciation. They engage in banter around tongue twisters she has set as an exercise.
The chemistry they share is natural, immediate and plain to see.
They start dating. Things quickly become serious. They fall in love.
But while it is “their” relationship, they must learn to navigate each other’s families and friends.
Of course, there are big questions about the future, about moving in together, marriage and children … cultural and religious expectations and how that could look.
Does it matter that Haseeb is British/Pakistani, while Ella is a white girl from Yorkshire?
Can love win the day, or do romantic notions of love face insurmountable barriers?
Can Haseeb and Ella hold onto their love in a divided world?
Part of MTC’s Education and Families Program, I Wanna Be Yours is the first play from London Laureate and poetry slam champion Zia Ahmed.
The narrative arc unfolds through a multitude of short, striking vignettes.
Writer Ahmed’s performance poetry background is evident in his evocative and playful use of language, imagery and symbolism.
He combines humour, heartbreak and hope to produce a work full of theatricality.
Movement and sound help shape the piece, which marks the MTC debut of resident director Tasnim Hossain.
The play is set to tour regionally, so three scaled down, washed out cityscapes, bleached of colour – that can be easily moved – constitute the set. (The set and costume designer is Kat Chan.)
The actors add the colour and they impress in so doing.
Adopting appropriate accents, their performances are polished and assured throughout.
In fact, they don’t miss a beat and there is an authenticity about them. In other words, they feel “real”.
Their “playfulness” is counterpointed by the harsh realities of micro aggressions and blatant racism, evident in a variety of settings.
Barkla and Hasseb manage to bring that to the fore.
With significant ground covered and much food for thought, the production flows effortlessly. I Wanna Be Yours is on at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler until 27th May, 2023.
Review by Alex First. Photography by Tiffany Garvie