Word of Colour

I Wanna Be Yours

Play: I Wanna Be Yours

Theatre: Bush Theatre

Playwright: Zia Ahmed

Director: Anna Himali Howard

Assistant Director: Janisè Sadik

Review by Tamera Heron

Poet Zia Ahmed’s play I Wanna Be Yours is a tender love story about a young couple from London. Both are similar in some ways – young creatives trying to define and find success in the capital. Yet, there are many aspects of their identities that are foreign to the other. Namely being that Ella (Emily Stott) is a British white woman from Yorkshire while Haseeb (Ragevan Vasan) is a British Pakistani Muslim man from London.

The stage, empty except for a few sparse chairs allows space for the whimsical couple to twirl, dance and lounge barefoot before us. The design’s openness allows the space to be repeatedly transformed, be it a Mosque, a bar, or quite literally the elephant in the room.

Ella and Haseeb share the story of their romance, as if they are living within that exact moment and simultaneously reminiscing about it. It feels as if you are listening to a ‘how we met’ story at a wedding, or perhaps a ‘how it all ended’ story at a dinner party.

As they try to navigate their relationship in conjunction with their separate goals, cultural backgrounds and societal pressures, they also move through the seasons. We bear witness to their experiences and conversations surrounding islamophobia, racism, and differing privileges.

One notable scene takes place at dinner with Ella’s family. Her mother begins to question Haseeb about his community. He battles with the feeling of being uncomfortable and angry at Ella’s mother for the words leaving her mouth, alongside the fact that no one seems ready to leap to his defense.

It is within this moment that we truly appreciate the talent of Zia Ahmed’s poetic skills. Haseeb’s words are vigorously explicit description, yet perfectly encapsulate the agonising feeling of having to bite one’s tongue.

This scene is made more intense by the brilliant Rachael Merry a BSL interpreter. Throughout the play she dances, laughs and communicates alongside the couple. Somehow embodying the love that keeps them in sync, despite their individual movements :“I move clockwise. I move counterclockwise. In the middle we meet.”

I Wanna Be Yours will make some people feel uncomfortable. There are moments when the audience recognises their own ignorance through Haseeb’s reactions to words uttered or activities participated in. Ultimately, this play transports the audience into the thoughts and feelings of a young person of colour, more specifically a young Pakistani man existing within white spaces.

You feel invested in this goofy relationship, from their melodramatic arguments to their reactions towards social prejudices. Eventually, we sense the end of the play looming as certain elements become less realistic and more surreal, making it feel somewhat hurried.

In the end, we never truly know whether this lovers’ tale will become part of a wedding speech, or the dinner party story of what once was. One to watch.

I Wanna Be Yours is playing at Bush Theatre until 18th January 2020.

Photo credit: The Other Richard