My Name is...

My Name is...

Image by Photographer: Helen Maybanks

By Daniel Nelson

It hit the headlines at the time: the tumultuous story of love-tug girl Molly Campbell, who disappeared from her mother’s home in Stanraer and turned up at her father’s house in Lahore.

Sorry, did I say Molly Campbell? Shouldn’t that be Misbah Rama?

And, of more concern to the media in both countries, did she go of her own accord, or was she snatched? And what of her future: would she be married off at an early age? Was this a case of Muslim immigrant perfidy or a hopeless mum failing to bring up her children properly?

Intrigued not so much by the initial hysteria as by subsequent developments in the story of the custody battle and the more complex version of events that began to emerge in parts of the media, Sudha Bhuchar decided to interview members of the family and write a play.

Hours of tape recordings later, a workshop organised by Tamasha – “Britain’s foremost touring theatre company” with a commitment to culturally diverse voices – provoked Bhuchar’s realisation that it would be more honest to use the family’s own words, rather than become “another intruder who was going to distort and dilute the family’s experiences”.

The result (with names changed), My Name is…, is a love story and a fascinating portrait of migrant attitudes and cultural, familial, religious and gender differences.

Tamasha brings it off beautifully. It’s static – three characters talking, sometimes over each other – in an unchanging set, but they and the story are so absorbing that you scarcely notice.

The media spin on the story frames the characters’ conversations and recollections and in a sense justifies the play: without it, the events would have been just another marriage gone wrong and a child’s struggle to be loyal to both parents while also trying to work out her own feelings and wants. The cuttings that mum and dad repeatedly refer to and the press scrum that Molly/Misbah has to face want to purvey a simple, easily digestible story when the truth is complex and nuanced.

Bhuchar and Tamasha have done the job instead – though even their version of events must of course be partial and unfinished.

Since the point at which the play ends Molly/Misbah has returned to the UK, and her mother, according to Wikipedia, “said that the entire family was happy, and requested that the press now no longer report on their affairs.”

In an interview on Woman's Hour on Radio4 on 6 May, Molly/Misbah, now 19, paid the play the wonderful tribute that watching it had helped her make sense of what happened, admitted that when the events occurred she had been "clueless" and concluded, "I'm still standing strong, and I've got my mum beside me and everything's perfect just now."

And The Scotsman has reported that “Runaway schoolgirl Molly Campbell has begun writing a book on her experiences.”

Watch this space.

My Name is… is at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 until 16 May. Info: 7503 1646

* Woman's Hour interview, with Molly and her mother (begins at 31 minutes)

Thursday 8 May: Tamasha Developing Artists night 
Post-show talk with Alecky Blythe (The Girlfriend ExperienceLondon Road) and Robin Soans (Talking to TerroristsMixed up North).
Wednesday 14 May: Identity & Representation
Post-show panel discussion with Shelina Janmohamed (curator and author of Love in a Headscarf), Latifa Akay (journalist and programme manager at Maslaha) and Eleanor Martin (associate director of Khayaal Theatre), chaired by Sara Wajid (writer /journalist and public programmes manager at the National Maritime Museum).

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