The Diary Of A Hounslow Girl
Oval House Theatre
6 May 2016
So what’s a Hounslow Girl? Apparently it’s “become a byword for confident, young Muslim women who are grappling with traditional values, city life and fashion”.
Ambreen Razia has written, and is now performing a one-woman monologue The Diary Of a Hounslow Girl, at venues around the UK and it’s a powerful piece of theatre indeed.
Razia plays Shaheeda, a young 16 year-old girl, living with her parents in Hounslow. We see Shaheeda in her bedroom, she is agitated, expectant, nervous, something is upsetting her. She is about to flee we think, but we aren’t sure why. Over the next 85 minutes, Shaheeda’s monologue gives us a significant insight into her life and her friends, and ever so gradually we learn Shaheeda’s secret. To go much further than that would be to give you significant spoilers, and I think that the plot has impact because of the way that Razia has Shaheeda unfold her story.
Ambreen Razia’s performance is astonishing and engaging. For any actor to hold an audience interested for over an hour is an achievement in itself. The fact that she manages to inject the performance with humour, and the fervour of youth, says a lot about her understanding of her subject, of the quality of the writing and of the talent of Razia herself. Shaheeda is no stereotype. She’s complex, and ultimately young!
Directed by Sophie Moniram, The Diary Of A Hounslow Girl is mostly set in Shaheeda’s bedroom, designed by Petra Hjortsberg with lighting by Paul O’Shaughnessy, It’s a very grey affair, with a few faded pink lanterns blinking above, leaving a dis-guarded bright yellow outfit lying on the floor, and a burgundy track suit jacket the only colour on display. There are also some wonderful moments where Shaheeda leaves video messages ,which are to be left behind explaining her flight. It all looks incredibly simple but Hjortsberg’s set has a few tricks that work beautifully to help illustrate Razia’s tale. Moniram blends humour with the more serious drama in the text and keeps the proceedings lively.
The Diary Of A Hounslow Girl works beautifully as an intimate piece of theatre. We are taken into Shaheeda’s confidence and begin to understand the pressures that she faces both from society but from within her own culture and family.
I can only highly recommend this piece and suggest that if it is coming to a theatre near you, that you invest in a ticket and experience the play for yourself. I doubt you will see something more moving or a performance as strong from such a young performer any time soon.