Authentic, simplistic and ethereal are just three words to describe the powerful and at times emotional performance created by the collaboration of Sherman and Waulah Cymru.
Community theatre is a wonderful way to explore the stories of real life within your city that can transcend to those who wouldn’t normally attend theatre. It can invite you in on a journey that resonates within you due to it’s relatable everyday content and leaves you with an emotional feeling long after the production has ended; Home left that feeling in a compelling and powerful way.
A non actor cast of 61 members of the Waulah community comprising children and adults up to the age of 89 showcased a total inclusion of a community extremely engaged and united in presenting their story. The journey of two brothers leaving the Pakistani village of Waulah and travelling all the way to Wales with just £5 in their pocket to create lives for the future generations was unashamedly brave and selfless; the sacrifice they made was evident in the generations shown together on stage.
The imagery and styling of the set was pretty bare and stripped back with the elder members of the community seated in a line at the back of the stage, with the younger members weaving in and out with their suitcases in between the dialogue. The suitcase sequences moving around the stage until they settled evoked a feeling of how it must have felt for the community of coming to Wales and visiting back home in Pakistan until their roots in Wales were firmly established.
In each suitcase opened up was a small plant with just a few branches showing the initial stages of growth reminiscent to the beginning foundations that were being created by the Waulah community in Cardiff. The aeroplane sounds overhead and the dates of arrival and ages of the brothers were an effect that was a great and simple stylistic choice that created the imagery of how the facts would have been presented by formal authorities on their arrival.
As the stories began to develop homage was paid to Waulah and the holidays that were made back there told with authentic words spoken that created beautiful big pictures for the audience to go on and imagine the sights, smells, adventures and appreciation for the land of their fathers. As the story of the women took to centre stage we were presented with an ethereal and beautiful innocence shown by the younger girls of the community pushing the elder female relatives on swings, whilst their stories of childhood flowed out abundantly and created the nostalgic feelings of longing for those warm sunny days of childhood that many of us experienced as children.
A verbatim piece from this community would not be complete without embracing the religion of Islam with an open and honest account of how devastating world events has had on the community and wider religion with the rise of Islamophobia and by allowing the audience to see the poetic and lyrical prayers of the Imam and community.
Hearing the heartbreaking accounts representative of the majority of Muslims effected by the terrorist portrayal of Islam, being streamed through multi media platforms on a daily basis and the backlash Muslims in today’s society face, was told with a raw and pulsating reality of how it must be for the Muslim nation to feel that the respectful and peaceful aspect of their religion is being ignored and discriminated.
What really resonated deeply with me was the invitation into one of the most sacred parts of a Muslims life; prayers. This was something I had experience in knowing, due to my Muslim Grandad and something that had an emotional effect on both myself and my Mother as we both reminisced on my Grandad’s dedication to his religion. Creating a way in which to invite the audience in to witness this and tying in prayer times not long after the Isha prayer, was an absolute honour and privilege to witness this beautiful declaration of a personal and sacred time. The poetic and lyrical prayer by the Imam stunned the audience into an astounded pin drop silence that marked a respect of this very personal invitation.
I was happy to see that the Director Andrew Sterry had taken a conscious decision to focus on the success story of a community and all it’s achievements as a way in which to counteract the Islamophobia many are facing in light of recent world events. This was a powerful, emotive and extremely personal account of a community story told with delicacy and dignity to show the real message of Islam and of a community who has embraced and made their home in Wales.
As I scanned the audience in the 5 seconds my eyes only once left the stage, it was great to see the emotions I felt was being reflected in the many eyes I saw glistening with tears. In that moment I knew that this was a story that needed to be told and I felt proud to have been a part of it.