When Gaby disappeared from her Scottish home in 2006, it was assumed that her Pakistani father had kidnapped her. The media wallowed in sea of sensationalism and speculation, much of it with racist overtones. As the story unfolded, a far more innocent truth emerged. Gaby was indeed with her father in Pakistan but at her own request. She had voluntarily decided she wanted to be with him in a Muslim country, where she could more easily practice her faith than with her mother in a conservative Christian area of Scotland.
An outstanding example of verbatim theatre.
The numerous interviews given on television and to newspapers by those involved generated volumes of material. Sudha Bhuchar also spent some six years conducting her own interviews before turning the accounts into her remarkable verbatim play My Name is… and she has done so very skillfully.
The set is central to the dialogue she has created. It consists of two very ordinary sitting rooms on either side of the stage. It immediately suggests that, until the story hit the headlines, there was nothing unusual about this family, including the parents’ separation. One room is the mother’s home in Scotland; the other that of the father in Pakistan. Linking them behind the sofa’s and across the miles is a white net curtain printed with newspaper headlines as constant reminder of what was being said in the outside world.
As the story unfolds, the characters are able to speak from their own homes or move across the set to depict times when the family was together. An individual narrative sometimes develops into a conversation in the same house, or a duologue with words exchanged between the two homes (occasionally in unison). Phrases are also uttered in Urdu from time to time, as a reminder of the meeting of two cultures.
Umar Ahmed portrays a loving father who is gentle yet firm, devout but not radical. Karen Bartke as the mother convincingly conveys stress, anguish, torment and love as she proceeds through adopting a new faith, then rejecting it and dealing with her daughter’s disappearance. Rehanna MacDonald, as the daughter caught in the middle of this, appears as a mystified girl torn between two parents and two continents, who cannot fully understand what all the fuss is about.
This production from Tamasha is non-judgemental. It simply and movingly reports what was related by those involved in the event and as such is an outstanding example of verbatim theatre.