crows head

The Crows plucked your Sinews

The Door, Birmingham Rep


HASSAN Mahamdallie is a thoughtful writer and director with a message to challenge and educate audiences.

In The Crows Plucked your Sinews, he explores British and Somalian identity and tells us how they co-exist with each other. It is a representation of Britain today, but also rich in history, performed by actor Yusra Warsama.

The play takes place in two different times and settings, performed by the captivating Warsama as Mahamdallie cleverly intertwines two strong characters with different experiences of their own Somalian culture and moulds them into one.

Suban is a young woman of Somalian culture and lives in the London Borough of Woolwich with her mother, brother and a grandmother who suffers with dementia.

After a stern word from her father, Suban opens up to her grandmother after rendering her invisible. She soon learns about her Somalian past, and what it means to be Somalian in Britain today.

As Suban becomes a guardian to her frail grandmother, she recalls her talking in ‘her own universe’. It is through this platform that we are transported to Somalia in the time of British colonial rule, through the guise of Suban’s great-grandmother.

Warsama takes on the role of both Suban and her great grandmother, living in early twentieth century Somalia, fliting between the two characters with utter ease. She gives the audience a perfect understanding of each moment in time.

Suban, is the young girl from Woolwich who has problems of her own. She talks about the story of her drug dealer brother, being stabbed in a racial-induced attack and when Warsama becomes the great-grandmother, we are exposed to a completely different Somalian experience.


As a female fighter of a Somalian clan, Warsama embodies a strong and captivating character, almost majestic and mythical, talking about the conflicts between British soldiers and fighting for their territory.

Warsama’s performance is moving on all accounts. By a simple change of accent and a single scarf used as a prop to flit between the modern lady and the fierce Muslim fighter, the story is incredibly easy to follow and with Warsama’s beautiful performance, we are presented with the question of how Somalia has shaped Britain in the past and its contribution to British culture today.

The performance’s atmosphere is shaped by an oud* player at the side of the stage. At the beginning, we see Suban approach musician Abdelkader Saadoun and put money into his hat. Later he becomes just as an important part of the production as the performer herself.

His contribution to the background music and setting the tone links in beautifully with Warsama’s performance and contributes to the shift in time and place. Saadoun’s rendition of Sam Cooke’s cultural and poignant song A Change is Gonna Come was interestingly placed at the end of the production.

Both stories of the past and present give way to incredibly clear and insightful direction, thanks to Mahamdallies passion for teaching and speaking to new audiences. It is clear that the audience learned something fascinating and new. By marrying the past with the present, Mahamdallie challenged the British audience to discuss and think about the importance of culture, and how this shapes the British experience today.

The play’s dialogue is lyrical and poetic. It is fitting that Mahamdallie wrote this story having one particular performer in mind. Yusra Warsama is a poet, actor and writer based in Manchester and captures the audience in each and every moment with an attention to the intricate rhythm and lyricism of both the English and African dialects that are purposefully shown.

The show is a wonderful indication of what Britain is today, made up of many cultures, pasts and people. Its strong feminist connotations are inspiring to audiences of every walk of life. Mahamdallie cuts away every stereotype of Somalian culture and shares his vast and extensive knowledge for us to be inspired, changed and challenged. To 11-02-16.

Elizabeth Halpin


* An oud is a Middles Eastern stringed instrument similar to a lute. 


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