The play “What Fatima Did...”, which ended its two-week premier run at the Hampstead theater in North London last Saturday, is the latest example of a British Muslim-related play to have gained favorable attention from critics and theater goers alike.
The author of the play, 21-year-old Atiha Sen Gupta, is the youngest playwright ever to have had a work staged in Hampstead theater’s main auditorium. Her play deals with the fallout of the decision of a British Muslim, on the eve of her 18th birthday, to start wearing the hijab. Up to then, Fatima had behaved like a typical British girl of her age – drinking, smoking, and partying – and had a white Irish boyfriend, George (Gethin Anthony). But after donning the hijab she turns her back on her former way of life.
Atiha Sen Gupta is not herself a Muslim, but as a young Asian Briton growing up a multicultural environment she is close to Muslim issues. She is the daughter of a Sri Lankan father, and an Indian-born mother, Rahil Gupta, who is a writer and an activist with Southall Black Sisters.
The play, directed by Kelly Wilkinson, is set in and around Fatima’s multicultural secondary school. The performances are full of vitality and humor, and the engaging characters include Fatima’s classmate Craig, played by Simon Coombs.
Fatima’s twin brother Mohammed (Arsher Ali) tries to defend her against the reactions to her decision to take the veil. Her mother, played by Shobu Kapoor, who had fought with her ex-husband for the right to wear Western dress, is angry with Fatima. George finds it near-impossible to come to terms with Fatima’s decision, and her feisty best friend Aisha (Farzana Dua Elahi) is also perplexed. But others, including her teacher, defend Fatima’s right to have made what she considers the right choice. For more read here.