Dir. Philip Osment, Tron Theatre, 29th-31st May
Verbatim theatre is often said to be one-sided, showing only the agenda of those of who have decided to research and make the production in the name of their own political statement. This is not true of Tamasha‘s My Name Is… (Which may borrow some inspiration from the incredibly successful verbatim play My Name Is Rachel Corrie). Conversely, what the company have done is presented two sides of a story, leaving the audience open to take in all the facts – or at least all those put before them – and come to their own conclusions.
The performance tells a story that may be familiar with its basis in the 2006 media frenzy around a very similar story, though names are changed. The press tell the story of 12 year old Gaby who had been kidnapped by her Pakistani father from her Scottish mother. Gaby, however, tells a different story: it is revealed that she chose to join her father, most poignantly stated in her chosen name, Ghazala. This is her name, she repeatedly reminds the audience, the invisible interviewers and her family of throughout the performance.
The stage is split into two clearly defined sets, with Ghazala and her father on one side and her mother on the other. Between them they tell the story, with the characters crossing to be together at various moments, for example as mother and father tell the story of how they met, married and broke apart, and as Ghazala switches between homes.
The performance is striking both in its speech and style. True to the verbatim model, the speech directly acknowledges the process of interview, uncomfortable against the backdrop of press mistreatment. Aesthetically, religious motives are constantly brought up in the appearance of each character, with the mother’s use of the veil acting as a strong symbol for her relationship with Islam. No person or ideal is punished or vilified in this production, and the struggle between belief and family is shown only at face value – a struggle and a sacrifice that each character must make for themselves. The actors all perform a touching, sometimes heartbreaking script with the sensitivity and conviction that theatre taken straight from life requires, and it speaks volumes to the success of the company.