I Wanna Be Yours, written by Zia Ahmed and directed by Anna Himali Howard, tells the story of Ella (Emily Stott) and Haseeb Ragevan Vasan) and the ups and downs of their relationship. An exploration of stereotypes and the assumptions made by society, I Wanna Be Yours is a love story with themes of race, religion and culture.

Ella is an actor from Yorkshire and meets Londoner and poet, Haseeb at a confident speaking seminar she is teaching. Beginning a relationship it is clear from the outset that elements of Ella’s life clash with Haseeb’s. Even so, they are both very happy together and quickly fall deeply in love. But life isn’t just about two people, and with friends, family and even strangers to deal with, the wider world makes life together difficult. Ella and Haseeb need to talk before the elephant in the room grows too big to manage.

The performance is fully BSL integrated by Rachael Merry and this is done in a very unique and inventive way. She is seamlessly a part of the whole performance and deserves praise for the part she plays.

The play relies heavily on telling the story of Ella and Haseeb and little is actually shown the audience. There are no costume changes and all props are mimed which means that some time is spent with the actors explaining what they are doing, what they are wearing, where they are and what is happening. Merry represents some other characters, but on the whole other people are talked about and referred to by Stott and Vasan. This creates a rather detached atmosphere and it is difficult to fully invest in the relationship between the two due to the lack of dramatic tension which telling over showing inevitably causes.

There are however some very tender moments between the couple and the awkwardness between them, particularly at the beginning of the play, is endearing. Some interesting points are made about things which are said to people and assumptions which are made based race and/or religion. Again, this could have been emphasised with more dramatic scenes showing the characters fully immersed in these situations.

There is some powerful imagery in the dialogue, particularly when the characters are talking about their own thoughts and feelings. This emphasises the fact that they have stopped discussing things with each other, and makes the silences all the more painful.

This is a romantic story, with a core of naiveté and sadness, which makes some interesting points about racism in the modern world. Incorporating elements of dance to an imaginative effect and using words over action to tell the story, this is an original production with some thought-provoking ideas.

I Wanna Be Yours is being performed on tour until 18th January 2020. Tickets are available here https://www.painesplough.com/play/i-wanna-be-yours-zia-ahmed

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 25th October 2019

North West End UK Rating: ★★★