Nottingham cast for play about British Muslim schoolgirls

Published: 22 February 2024
Reporter: Steve Orme

Vaneeka Dadhria who will play Ruqaya
Asha Hassan who will take the role of Sabi
Halema Hussain who will be Xara

Vaneeka Dadhria, Asha Hassan and Halema Hussain have been cast in Nottingham Playhouse and Fifth Word’s new co-production Liberation Squares.

Written by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Liberation Squares is a “riotous, funny play told through the Technicolor lens of three British Muslim schoolgirls. Inspired by graphic novels, hip-hop, pop culture and real-world youth activists, Liberation Squares asks what it takes for young Muslim women today to be the heroes of their own stories”.

Dadhria will play dynamic Ruqaya. Asha Hassan who was Muna in Charlene James’ Cuttin’ It at Manchester Royal Exchange in 2020 is her best friend Sabi. Social media influencer Xara will be played by Halema Hussain who appeared in Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial at The Lowry, Salford in 2023.

Liberation Squares will be directed by Milli Bhatia. Designer is Tomás Palmer, lighting designer is Joshua Gadsby, composer and sound designer is Elena Peña and Iskandar Sharazuddin is movement director. Casting director is Arthur Carrington, dramaturg is Afshan D’souza-Lodhi and Jade Franks is assistant director.

Writer Bhattacharyya said, “I wanted to write a play about the incredible imagination, inquisitiveness and creativity teenagers have. This is what forges the messy bond between Xara, Ruqaya and Sabi.

“Right now we're witnessing rapidly normalised Islamophobia and racism and I wanted to explore how this inhibits young people's confidence, freedom of expression and even their futures. I wanted to tell this story through the points of view of young people themselves, with all the joyful spirit of rebellion that that entails.”

Laura Ford, artistic director of Fifth Word, commented, “we’re delighted to have commissioned Sonali to develop this important and powerful play that explores what it might mean for Muslim girls to become the heroines of their own stories and what it costs them when they attempt to protest about injustice.

“During the development process we’ve had the opportunity to work with a group of young Muslim women whose contributions have been vital in shaping the further development of the script. The play will make for a thoroughly entertaining yet thought-provoking piece of theatre.”

Liberation Squares will run at Nottingham Playhouse from Friday 12 until Saturday 27 April. It will then tour to Oxford’s North Wall, London’s Brixton House, Birmingham Rep, Newcastle’s Northern Stage, Sheffield’s Crucible, Coventry’s Belgrade and Bolton’s Octagon Theatre until Saturday 8 June.

    Related listings

  • Liberation Squares - Sonali Bhattacharyya (Nottingham Playhouse and Fifth Word)

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