Monday, 2 November 2015

Fragile Land - Tanika Gupta. Hampstead Theatre, London March/April 2003

It's hard to be a teenager, but this play focuses on the angst of being both a teenager and a young British Asian in current society. They are pressurised by their parents to stick to their own kind, but for the two female leads this is a difficult request to fulfil. The London they are growing up in, is a different one to that which their parents generation was used to.

Fragile Land revolves around the lives of six youths. Quasim - 14 year old Asian male,
Omar - 16 year old Asian male, Tasleema - 17 year old Asian female, Luksmi/Lux - 17 year old Asian female, Hassan - 19 year old Afghan male and Fidel (Tom Burke) - 17 year old white male.

On the surface all is ok, the teens do as all teens do, chat and banter with each other in a seemingly carefree way, but below the surface, Tasleema and Lux have additional worries as female Asians. The play shows the complex conflict of cultural allegiances when you feel neither Asian nor British.

Omar is a streetwise, loud and confident youth and Quasim is his younger buddy who is always by his side. Hassan is Tasleema's boyfriend, but her father would prefer her to marry a nice Bengali boy. They also have the additional pressure that Hassan is facing deportation back to Afghanistan which is a war zone. He wants to marry Tasleema as soon as possible in order that he does not have to return home to Kabul and threats from the Taliban. It is a bittersweet irony that the only youth who embraces the British way of life is the character facing deportation!

Lux is Tasleema's best friend and confidant. She is beautiful, charming and friends with Fidel, and Quasim and Omar are not happy that she has chosen to befriend and become emotionally close to a white man.

The play intersperses real life scenes with various dream sequences in which we can see the characters inner most thoughts compared to how they act when others are watching them.

A solid play which would certainly appeal to the younger generation allowing them to question the various themes the play exposes. The ending of the play is a bit too much of a perfect ending, but it is an enjoyable and lively play to read.

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