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Review: I Wanna Be Yours at the Southbank Theatre

Review by Mish Graham

As the diverse audience puzzle-pieced their way into the intimate space, you could sense the excitement. The duo, Yorkshire actress (Ella) and a Muslim poet (Haseeb) played by Oz Malik and Eleanor Barkla had laughs within the first three minutes. It was clear that ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ was well on its way to winning this crowd over.

The show is anchored by the question, ‘is love enough’ as the young couple struggle to navigate the relevant and real complications of racism, politics and culture. The themes of which the performers bear bravely and honestly, making these points potent, memorable and less confronting than you may think; as we see it all unfold within the confines of their relationship.

Ahmed’s writing is presented in such a way that there is a clever balance of tragedy and comedy, we journey willingly into their beautiful disaster. Presented as an elevated time-lapse of the circumference of a relationship, the audience laughed with their jokes and shared deep sighs in their silences, in some way resonating with the weight of the lived experience of these characters.

The show was wonderful creative with contemporary theatrical techniques. Skilfully minimalistic design which allowed room for poetry, song and the couple’s physical relationship to each other within the space. I only wish that they had included Auslan (Australian Sign Language) with integrated access as did the play originally in London (using BSL). This would not only have been a stunning visual choice but also proved access for our Deaf community here in Melbourne.

Personally I did not get much out of the ‘elephant in the room’ motif; although the elephant itself was ‘growing’, it did not offer much more to the growing tense of their struggles, merely a unhelpful distraction and a reminder of ‘yes, indeed, we are at the theatre.’

The two had kinetic chemistry and I enjoyed their ability to bring a part of London to our pretty city. I could have done without the hate on South London, which was where I had lived, while I was there but the audience seemed to enjoy it while gaining a glimpse into UK culture - ‘heya’, ‘it’s not that deep’.

There is no interval but it’s not a show you’ll feel the need to take a break from. The actors’ incredible ability to snap in and out of moment kept the pace up. Interesting, you’ll find some points you want to dwell in and others that you’ll want to escape as quickly as they move through them. You’ll it is as a comment on time, how quickly life can pass by, both grief and joy; side by side and all at once.

The play runs at MTC until the 27th of May, I suggest you take your teenager and see it as an opportunity to talk through relevant cultural issues. Take your lover and see it as couples counselling or be like me and take your friend who has NEVER been to the theatre; she’s still processing the experience. I still have hope for young Haseeb and Ella, let me know if you do too.

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1 Comment

Jeremy Rice
Jeremy Rice
May 17, 2023

Hi Mish, thanks for the awesome review. There is an Auslan-interpreted performance of I WANNA BE YOURS next Monday 22 May 7pm. Seats available!

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