British Iraqi playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak talks Chambers of the Heart: LAAF 2024

Wednesday, 19 June 2024

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British Iraqi playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak talks about Chambers of the Heart, his new play, which is coming to Liverpool’s Unity Theatre as part of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival


What the play is about?

The play focuses on the lives of women from the Middle East at various stages in their lives. Yasmine, Lebanese in her 30s, who has a very bizarre experience with online dating during the pandemic. Reem, Syrian in her 40s, clings onto the memory of an unrequited love as she flees her country. Mother, Iraqi in her 70s, successfully battles to save her family In Iraq and later in Britain but that comes at a price. These women confront love, desire and memory in stories spanning East and West that transcend stereotypes.


Where the idea first came from?

I was commissioned to write these monologues individually by various theatres and organisations including Tara Arts and The Upsetters. It later occurred to me that these pieces speak to one another, particularly as they provide unusual takes on the lives of Arab women. I also wanted to work with actress Laila Alj on a joint project for a long time and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I am a fan of the short story and this an opportunity for an audience to experience a multiplicity of stories with connecting themes in one evening.


Why you feel this is an important story to tell?

There is a perception in the West that Arab women are somehow helpless victims with little or no agency. You see this when you walk into Waterstones and see some book, usually written by a Westerner, with a veiled woman on the cover. This does not tally with my experience of Arab women who are strong, capable and brilliant. I want this play to be a celebration of Arab women and their resilience.


What you want people to feel when they see the show?

I want them to be engaged and surprised by these stories, to enjoy the complexity of the characters and their idiosyncrasies.

Chambers of the Heart is on 19 & 20 July at Unity Theatre. Liverpool Arab Arts Festival runs from 12-21 July