The newly-refurbished Vestry Hall hosted an intimate performance of the newly reworked “A Handful of Henna”, on Tuesday 5th February. Evocative and enchanting, the players presented a story of homecoming, reunion, adventure and identity. Nasreen (Ambur Khan) is a typical northern 12-year-old being ‘made’ to accompany her single mother, Sasheed (Goldy Notay) to a family wedding ‘back home’. Secrets are exposed and relationships explored in this poignant and sometimes irreverently funny tale.
A Handful of Henna was developed several years ago through a series of workshops recording memories of ‘home’ from Muslim women who had moved here from Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and India amongst others, which were then sensitively woven together to engage a huge demographic – as demonstrated at the Vestry Hall.
Filling the Hall was a capacity crowd of all ages and origins. This first night was so heavily attended that many were turned away – but not before the names & addresses of all those disappointed had been taken, with a promise of tickets for the next performance at the Vestry (date to be confirmed).
Speaking after the event, Vestry Hall manager, Jhangir Ali, said,
“I think everyone enjoyed themselves and I would like to thank Pye Bank School for the loan of the mats so the many children could enjoy an uninterrupted view of the play. The children were all very good.”
Later he added that the evening owed a lot to the work done by John Cowley, Jackie Toyne, Alison Reid, New Deal and key personnel, Liz Searle and Paul Ottaway. Before the performance, hot food was supplied by Caribbean Cuisine, Sheffield. The play is family friendly and opened the Children’s Festival two years ago. Since then, it has had a long and interesting history of performances. This North of England Tour is for five weeks until 15th March and covers Cumbria and Yorkshire, including the Crucible on 18th & 19th February. The Director, Karen Simpson, described the evening as
“a opportunity for all to share in a good space” and
“a fantastic resource, will love to come back”
Originally this balanced and touching play was written for two main actors, with many cameos played by Sheffield children. Now it is being revitalised for touring with two actors (Krupa Pattani and Preeti Saul) playing those parts between them. It is effective and absorbing. With a great score and choreography, a sense of place was strong. Intuitively lit, the set lent atmosphere to the fast paced fusion of near and far. Kim, the tour’s lighting technician, enthused over the new “LED par cans” – much less hazardous lights that give off very little heat, making them ideal for schools and theatre groups where children are in close contact with the lights.
A short Q&A session followed. One Pye Bank CofE Primary School student asked if Nasreen might have been tempted to stay after her trip. Ambur Khan answered saying she drew on her own similar experience of visiting her mother’s birthplace and, although she had not wished to stay permanently, it had led to a deeper understanding of her family and a wish to return for further visits. It was a grand night in a grand place – catch it if you can when it comes again.
For more information, see the Sheffield Theatres website: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
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