Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Phil Hopkins
Arts & Travel Editor
7:00 AM 5th May 2022

When The Elephant In The Room Takes On Life

Eva Scott (Ella) and Usman Nawaz (Haseeb) in I Wanna Be Yours. Photo by Anthony Robling (1)
Eva Scott (Ella) and Usman Nawaz (Haseeb) in I Wanna Be Yours. Photo by Anthony Robling (1)
The elephant in the room may be a simple, some would say over-used metaphor, but when director Sameena Hussain gives it tangible life by using it as the backbone to her latest work, she delivers a piece of theatre that prompts thought and makes you question established norms.

I Wanna Be Yours follows a young couple working on sustaining a relationship across contemporary cultural divides. They are just two ordinary people living ordinary lives. Ella is an actor from Yorkshire who likes red wine and Haseeb a poet from London who prefers hot chocolate.

But, as each gets to know the other it becomes apparent that friends around them say and do things that we have all heard and audibly witnessed.

But it is only when Pakistani Muslim Haseeb suggests that some of them might be inappropriate or white Hebden Bridge girl Ella points out that her partner’s family could have played their meeting with her a bit better, that you find yourself saying: ‘Oh yes, I hadn’t seen it that way.’

As familiarity increases within the relationship so the ‘elephant in the room’ becomes more tangible as each person feels able to say what they are really thinking.

This critic must confess to having an Asian wife in the same way that my good lady – also a witness to Zia Ahmed’s play – has a white husband in me.

And, on this occasion, ‘couple colour’ had a very definite part to play for Zia Ahmed’s work challenges stereotyping and, like any theatre should, makes you think even if you find yourself momentarily getting angry and saying, ‘but that’s nonsense’ or turning to your wife and commenting, ‘did you see it that way as well?’

Staged in the intimate backdrop of the Bramall Rock Void Eva Scott as Ella and Usman Nawaz as Haseeb ploughed through a huge swathe of dialogue without fault, and have to be applauded for polishing off such a large work without pausing for breath!

Their performance was natural and believable but ‘enjoy’ is not the right word: it is more about ‘getting through’ this mammoth work which, for me, was a little too long at the thick end of 90 minutes without an interval.

The content is solid and demanding of total concentration, but it is like eating four Betty’s Fat Rascals at one sitting: the first one is amazing, the second one a privilege but when you hit the third and fourth, you will be glad when it’s time to exit the café and head for home!

I appreciated the work totally but was glad to exit the theatre for some air!

Tour schedule currently includes:
Tuesday 17 May: St Aidan's Church Community Hall, Harehills
Wednesday 18 May: HOPS, Hawksworth Wood Village Hall
Friday 20 May: Middleton Parochial Hall
Saturday 21 May: Gipton Fire Station
Monday 23 May: RJC Mandela Centre, Chapeltown
Tuesday 24 May: Leeds Anglers Club, Burmantofts
Wednesday 25 May: Hamara Centre, Beeston
Friday 27 May: New Wortley Community Centre
Saturday 28 May: Chapel FM, Seacroft