The Diary of a Hounslow Girl is the first solo show from writer and actress Ambreen Razia, and it proves to be a beautifully observed and spirited piece of performance. An energetic monologue gives its audience a brief, yet intimate insight into the experiences of a modern Muslim girl trying to find the balance between her traditional home and the outside world in the big city. It’s a coming of age tale with a multicultural twist – and Razia’s Shaheeda tells a story that clearly speaks for more than just herself.
Shaheeda is rallying against her conservative Pakistani mother, conflicted with her mixed-race, weed-smoking school friends, and is falling for a tattooed bad boy with a seductive line in mystical BS. She runs on set, a simple girls’ bedroom, in traditional Indian dress before tearing it off and changing into a hoodie and sweat pants. She wears a head scarf and listens to the imam who has known her all her life; she has a wardrobe of bodycon dresses and would rather microwave an Uncle Ben’s than bother with a family recipe.
With clarity and maturity, Razia captures the excitement of those heady days of teenage rebellion and first love, combined with the pressures of home life with overbearing parents. The audience shares the joy of her excited teenage dreams, yet, having been there and done that, fears for what might come of them. It strikes a delicate balance, and has a passionately feminist heart. It’s a funny, brash and quite spellbinding monologue, performed frenetically and drawing the audience into Shaheeda’s increasingly chaotic life. It’s a touch EastEnders, a touch Romeo and Juliet – a good, accessible story performed with considerable charm.
Only the third production from new company Black Theatre Live, dedicated to promoting the work of black and minority ethnic performers, it was interesting to observe the Liverpool audience – generally an older, white crowd. At the end of a UK tour, although it may have offered the audience a different perspective, it seemed a shame that for whatever reason it had not engaged Liverpool’s Shaheedas. Her story undoubtably resonates further than Hounslow.