A few weeks ago I went to see Diary Of A Hounslow Girl at the Oval House in Vauxhall. The production is a monologue written and performed by Ambreen Razia who plays a 16-year-old Muslim girl. The title of the play really resonated with me as I’ve lived in Hounslow for a couple of years and spent my childhood making trips to Southall regularly to buy groceries with my parents! I know the area well and kind of knew what to expect.
Ambreen’s acting is brilliant without a doubt, her ability to create tension and drama within a monologue is pretty incredible. In her ‘diary’ she covers many issues that are taboo in the Asian and Muslim community. But she also talks about all the normal issues that most teenagers goes through like boys, fights at school, parents, drugs, aspirations and much more. She touches upon so many topics it’s hard to mention them all but more specifically being second generation daughter of immigrants, having no father, being the black sheep of the family etc. Issues, that many of us from all backgrounds can relate to, ultimately things we wrestle with growing up and the temptations around us. Although the play has a depressing undertone it has many comical moments that most young people from ethnic minorities can relate to and find amusing, especially when Ambreen does the voices of her mum and friends.
What I found sad was that Ambreen’s character was struggling with all the same issues that second generation kids have been dealing with since the 1980s, it seems not much has changed. Not being able to talk to parents about certain things, her mum giving her a hard time like most Asian mums did and generally having a stricter upbringing than our white counterparts; it was all the typical things that most Asians have been through. The only difference being that she is from the Facebook generation, so those added quips made the play fresh. A really positive thing was how she had a good relationship with the Imam from the mosque. He always gave her good advice, and acted as a father figure for her which is something we seldom hear about in the real world. Even when she’s in big trouble he doesn’t scold her but comforts her with his wisdom.
Another thing I liked is that although Ambreen is a hijab wearing Muslim girl, she’s human and has the same fears and hopes as every other girl her age. Just because she wears hijab it doesn’t mean she’s perfect and pious like people may expect. Breaking down these barriers is so important so that the wider audience can see that Muslim girls are quite normal and wearing a scarf doesn’t make them any different. This is really the main thing I took from the play. Ambreen’s performance is definitely provocative. I commend her boldness in writing a play like this and providing a platform to discuss topics that effect young people from all communities not just the Muslim community. It’s also encouraging to see a Muslim actress writing and performing her own play — she’s definitely one to watch!
Diary Of A Hounslow Girl has ended now, but Ambreen Razia will be performing at The National Theatre for Mind The Gap in July.