“A Handful of Henna” at the Vestry Hall

Review by Suze Reynolds

Performers at "A Handful of Henna"
Performers at "A Handful of Henna"

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.

Performers at "A Handful of Henna"
Performers at "A Handful of Henna"

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

Logged in users of the website can add comments to this page.
Login to this site if you'd like to add a comment. Sign-up for an account if you are not currently a member.

<< | Up | >>

Print version

The content on this page was added to the website by Douglas Johnson on 2008-02-23 11:17:20.
The content of the page was last modified by Douglas Johnson on 2008-02-23 19:25:56.

Follow us on Twitter @TheBMessenger

All content is copyright © Burngreave Messenger Ltd. or its voluntary contributors, unless otherwise stated, not to be reproduced without permission. If you have any comments, or are interested in contributing to the Messenger and getting involved, please contact us.

Burngreave Messenger Ltd. Abbeyfield Park House, Abbeyfield Road, Sheffield S4 7AT.
Telephone: 0114 242 0564. Email: mail@burngreavemessenger.org
Company Limited by Guarantee: 04642734
Registered Charity: 1130836

The Burngreave Messenger is a community newspaper with editorial independence, funded by the Big Lottery, Foyle Foundation, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Scurrah Wainwright Charity, local residents and our advertisers.

Help the Messenger with a donation