Sudha Bhuchar on My Name is…

My Name is….tells the real story of Molly Campbell, who hit headlines in 2006 after running away to Pakistan to live with her father. Initially Molly was thought to have been abducted by her father and taken to Pakistan. Days later, a happy Molly was seen in Pakistan declaring her name is Misbah and that she chose to come and live with her father in Lahore. The plays opens at the Curve later this month (September 29-30th), continuing its successful UK tour. The Asian Writer caught up with actress and playwright, Sudha Bhuchar to find out more.

It was this article in the Guardian in 2007 which told the story behind the headlines –and charted the love story of Molly’s parents during the 80’s – that peaked Bhuchar’s interest in the story. ‘It resonated with me on a personal level, it’s about ordinary people who were caught up in bigger agendas that they weren’t sort of aware of in their lives. They were just leading their lives, growing up in Glasgow, fell in love, got married. I was really struck by how much they’d been through and how their personal stories ended up in the glare of the media, serving agendas that were not of their making.’ She stops, before adding that ‘It’s a story of a white working class girl, falling in love with a Pakistani boy and deciding to change for love in a naïve way, converting, but neither of them realised what they were getting into.’

Bhuchar travelled to Lahore shortly afterwards to record a series of interviews with Molly and her father, Sajad. Later she met Molly’s mother, Louise in Stornoway in June 2008. Though their names have been changed in the play, it’s these verbatim testimonies that Bhuchar has used to construct My Name is…

The verbatim theatre technique involves the playwright employing documentary-making skills so the dialogue used in the play is crafted from the recorded interviews. For Bhuchar it was a way of giving back the family their own words.‘It’s the sort of theatre I love to make.’ Bhuchar says about the play. ‘For me, what I found was that I was championing the poetry in their words. I didn’t make up these words, they moved me and I’m hoping they will move the audience.’ She loves the Glaswegian dialect, peppered with Urdu words. ‘There’s a kind of rhythm and poetry to the language which you can savour.’

It’s taken six years to bring the play to the stage, partly because Bhuchar wanted to do the family’s story justice and felt a deep sense of responsibility to represent them properly. It was developed with ‘special attention’ at Tamasha theatre, the theatre Bhuchar co-founded with director Kristine Landon-Smith in 1989. She says ‘It’s been a unique and special project. It’s been fraught with worry which is why it’s taken me so long and why I couldn’t have been more thrilled, having taken the time to find the right way and the family’s response has been humbling for me.’

My Name is…is on at Curve Leicester, 29-30th September.

For writer development opportunities with Tamasha visit the website.