RAH at Hope Theatre
Manal is waiting for her family to come over for Iftar, the meal that interrupts the fasting during Ramadan. She candidly tells her white boyfriend – a disembodied presence who often becomes each audience member – that fasting has never been issue for her, what with her eating disorder.
Written and performed by Laila Latifa, RAH is a semi-autobiographical play that doesn’t shy away from voicing the kind of thoughts that might keep one awake at night as it delves deeply into the character’s psyche and troubled past. Manal lets us peek into her flat, her life, as she is preparing food and talking to her boyfriend about her relationship with her body, cultural heritage, middle-class friends, the atrocity of honour killings and fearing for her own safety. But she also talks about her love for Timothée Chalamet, and the Twilight saga (lovely touch, the Eclipse poster on the wall behind her). Manal is effortlessly funny, as well as devastatingly sincere.
RAH was written in memory of Amina and Sara Said, and Shafilea Ahmed, all victims of honour killing. Latifa seems to have taken it upon herself to give a voice to all those women who will never be able to have an honest conversation about their identities and love, sharing all the parts of themselves that make them who they are.
Performed with heart and staggering sincerity, the writing manages to scavenge inside the character’s soul, making her longing for stability and a sense of belonging, visible and palpable.
It is clear that this is only a tiny slice of the protagonist’s life that we – the voyeurs – have access to. By the end, however, we are not left with nothing. This is also a play about hope: that Manal will in fact heal herself and her body, and learn to love every single bit of herself; that she will find a safe, warm place where she will feel right at home, whether that’s a small room inside of her own body, or out in the real world.
RAH is at Hope Theatre from 4th until 8th April 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.