Sudha Bhuchar’s emotive verbatim play highlights the famous true story of Molly Campbell, the adolescent Scots/Pakistani girl caught up in a custody fight between her parents in 2006. Initially, her father was accused by his estranged wife of kidnapping Molly and sending her to Pakistan, and only later it emerged that she went along (seemingly) willingly. A media storm ensued, with the twelve year old girl almost overlooked amid the recrimination and thunderous redtop headlines.
However, the truth is as ever, more complex than sensationalist tabloids would have us believe. Using extensive conversations with both parents, Bhuchar spent six years developing the piece, but has changed the family members’ names. Here, Molly is Gaby, later Ghazala (Kiran Sonia Sawar) her father Sajad becomes Farhan (Umar Ahmed) and mother Louise is Suzy, or Sajida (Karen Bartke)
Paranoia is stitched into the fabric of the play: Miriam Nabarro’s evocative set design features a split living room showing Ghazala and her father’s perspective in Pakistan; and Suzy’s in Scotland, with ‘curtains’ which are eerily comprised of tabloid headlines…thus they are constantly being watched and judged by the world.
Told in present day and flashback,it is Farhan and Suzy’s relationship which is the central core of the play. The first tentative courtship of a gauche ‘Gori’ teenager and her early twenties Asian boyfriend is charming, and cringingly recognisable sweet-talking, bad dancing to the Bee Gees at a local Pollokshields disco and endless promises of domestic idyll, until the chasms between the cultures, often facilitated by Farhan’s conservative in-laws, deepen. Suzy refuses to wear the veil upon her conversion, and Farhan divorces her on the grounds of apostasy, accusing her of being an unfit mother.
As relations between the once happy young couple sour, naive Ghazala runs around her garden, singing, oblivious as any cocooned teen is to the bitter acrimony, surrounded by western accoutrements: day-glo nail polish; an i Pod to which she is glued, Elle magazine and CocaCola, all symbols of youth and affluence.
But all three are flawed: when Suzy finally stands up to Farhan and repudiates Islam, he regards her decision as not only selfserving and an insult to his beliefs, but the absolute act of emasculation. His is a sneering sense of entitlement, steeped in the patriarchy,although he seems determined to keep his family together. It is Suzy who seems destined to make mistakes, as she is portrayed as less assured damaged, coming from an abusive family. Her nervous breakdown sadly feels all too inevitable, but she has finally relocated to a peaceful environment in the Highlands where she now lives a secular life.
Tamasha Theatre have created something truly special here. Brimming with insights into identity, faith and the extremes of Islamic repression, raw yet humane, with consistent excellence from the cast, My Name Is… is better than any family drama has any right to be: a simply stunning addition to the Mayfesto season at the Tron Theatre.