In a climate of uncertainty where to be a British Muslim is to be vilified to a certain degree, Silently Hoping is the collaborative project from Ellandar, written by playwright Iskandar R Sharazuddin, seeking to look at clashing identities and the discovering of one’s roots.
Kalila (Mona Khalili) is a young woman of mixed race, who has recently found her estranged father on Facebook. He decides to visit her and her mother Thérèse (Denise Stephenson) in London, from Brunei, where he lives with his six other children. The play moves back and forth across time, so that in the initial scene, Kalila is an adult, living with her girlfriend Charlotte (Comfort Fabian), where Charlotte’s antagonistic sister Anna, and boyfriend Jack, visit the two. It is initially unclear why Kalila behaves naively, but things become plainer when Thérèse states her daughter’s age. Khalili gives a creditable performance as the leading character, but it is Stephenson who carries the play forward; Fabian’s verbal projections are also noteworthy, though the characters of Anna and Jack are mostly redundant, and unfortunately don’t contribute anything to the piece as a whole. When Kalila vents about the prejudice she experiences while being interviewed for a scholarship, it is arguably the only moving scene in the unfolding drama, relatable and relevant in today’s divided society.
The main focus of the production is Kalila’s relationship with her father and her examination of Islam, a part of her heritage she did not grow up with. However, the piece falls flat, failing to keep its audience invested in the characters, so that we aren’t left with anything memorable. Reading about the play beforehand, one has an expectation the performance will be engaged with identity crises and the intensity that comes along with it. But Silently Hoping is a watered-down drama that does not capture the rift associated with being from two cultures, so that the question the writer proposed – “Is there a difference between British-Asian and Asian-British” – sits there silently, without being explored.
Photo: Claudia Marinaro
Silently Hoping is at the Studio from 20th until 24th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.