Camden Fringe 2023: Woman. Life. Freedom at Canal Cafe Theatre
Performed as part of the Camden Fringe, Woman. Life. Freedom follows Meera – a British Muslim woman living in the UK – after she makes the decision to remove her hijab in solidarity with the women protesting for freedoms in Iran. The play documents the aftermath of this decision and the effects it has on both Meera’s professional and personal life.
Over the course of the day, Meera must answer to her students, boss, husband, father and sister regarding her choice. As she faces their questions and pressures, she laments the involvement of so many in a decision that should be individual and reflects on the variety of political forces at work in such involvement.
Framed as an exploration of women’s freedoms through the lens of religion, Woman. Life. Freedom examines the personal implications behind a woman’s right to choose. In Meera’s father and, to a lesser extent, her husband, we see traditionalist attitudes informed by the patriarchy, as they question what her removal of the hijab signals to others about her faith and loyalty to her family. While these conversations reinforce well-established ideas surrounding the relationship between the hijab, women’s choices and patriarchal ideals, they don’t add anything new or particularly thought-provoking to the discussion.
More interesting are the interactions between the female characters. In Meera’s young female students, we see how her decision has the capacity to inspire both admiration and fear. Most stimulating is the conversation between Meera and her younger sister, who – as a Muslim woman who chooses to keep her hijab on – introduces a new and unique perspective on Meera’s choice.
At the play’s end, the status of each of Meera’s relationships is left open. Sitting beside her husband, carrying on tense conversation under the pretence of normality, everything feels shaky and unresolved. But perhaps that’s the point – there is no clean and easy ending to the conversations regarding Muslim women’s freedoms or women’s freedoms in general. Preaching solidarity and unity, Woman. Life. Freedom encourages a multi-faceted, multi-focal approach to a complicated issue.
Woman. Life. Freedom is at Canal Cafe Theatre from 4th until 5th August 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.