The Diary of a Hounslow Girl

Coventry Belgrade


Hounslow Girls are a phenomenon and this new play celebrates and explains their place in history.

It concerns Muslim families who are attempting to bring their daughters up as good Muslims fighting against a backdrop of English values that are necessarily very different.

I remember a wonderful line from The Faint-Hearted Feminist – ‘Sometimes I can FEEL my personality splitting’. Hounslow Girls attempt the trick by an exhausting double life that makes them feel estranged from their best source of support – family.

This wonderful, one-woman play written by Ambreen Razia concerns 16-year-old schoolgirl Shaheeda (Nyla Levy) – I’d hoped the programme would be more forthcoming about spelling – in the midst of her sister Ayesha’s long-winded and long-awaited wedding, who wants love more than she wants instruction.

Her schoolfriends Tash and Leona are fully sexually aware and finally it is her turn when she meets the louche, tattoo-artist, cannabis-smoking Aaran, beautifully portrayed by Nyla Levy as are all the other ‘characters’.

She falls for his love of wandering the world, carefully and reluctantly unwinds her Hajib to reveal her ‘beauty’ – her hair - but he breaks her heart and she enters reality with a bump quite literally as she finds herself pregnant, vomits all over her sister’s wedding dress at the main ceremony, destroys the ten-tier, lurid green cake and plans to use the world ticket Aaran has given her to run away.

Her realisation that both her mother in England and her grandmother in Pakistan have been deserted in the same circumstances by men who proclaimed love for them wakes her further to her mother’s plight as a single mother to two girls in the ‘wrong’ country.

I feel in my bones that this play has a great role in educating as well as entertaining and for this reason alone it is a must-see. The audience was equally as interesting as the play – more than 90% female and more diverse than I have ever seen before.

There was a gasp as she unwound her Hajib. I think everyone around me understood the significance of such an act – also the role of the Mother in Muslim families – the Koran apparently guides that it is only under a Mother’s feet that paradise can be found.

This piece of theatre has everything I ask – I learnt, I laughed and I understood. I also enjoyed immensely the humour and honesty of the piece – take my hat off to the actor for her hard work, use of film snippet monologues to support the story, and would highly recommend it. Just as much as Shaheeda wants to leave Hounslow and her comfort zone to travel the world, we travelled the world with her and saw it with new eyes.

She sums up beautifully by an admission that she hasn’t a clue what she’s doing and that this alone may save her. Solomon’s wisdom in the mouths of children was never more elegantly put. Directed by Sophie Moniram to 25-03-17.

Jane Howard


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