Being dragged by her mother Saheeda back to the family village thousands of miles away is no fun for 13-year-old Nasreen. In the monsoon rain, not being able to text friends, her first visit takes an unexpected turn. But with the mystical power of henna, and more than a little help from the wagging tongues of Aunties, Grandparents and neighbours, she discovers some unexpected truths about her mother. Skipping back and forth across time and between lives lived across two cultures; four actresses create a bustling, colourful world bursting with music, dance and family celebration.
The cast features two actors from Silver Street, the popular BBC Asian Network radio soap. Bharti Patel, (Sliver Street's Rita Chauhan), plays Saheeda, and Sohm Kapila (Nadia Akhtar) plays Aiia, Saheeda's best friend from childhood.
Presented with Oxfordshire Theatre Company the production opens on 28 January at Waterman’s, Brentford before touring throughout the UK finishing at Curve, Leicester, in May. The tour also visits Warwick Arts Centre and the Northwest's Royal Exchange Manchester, as well as small village venues in counties such as Devon and Shropshire.
Handful of Henna was originally commissioned by Sheffield Theatres for the city’s Children’s Festival, developed from real stories of women from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Rani Moorthy found that uniting these women was not only Islam, but also henna. Most commonly used to decorate the body of brides, the stories of these women revealed henna’s mystical attributes from ancient times related to its use in childbirth, as a way of warding off evil, as a symbol of fertility and the supernatural.
Rasa, based in Manchester - produce theatre that unites both South Asian and Western theatre. For 30 years Oxfordshire Theatre Company has specialised in touring high quality accessible theatre to rural areas.
Moorthy was born in Malaysia, and came to Britain in 1996. Her solo show Curry Tales became the UK’s most widely toured piece of Asian theatre, also broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and touring to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and USA. Rasa have produced Rani’s plays Pooja, Dancing Within Walls, Too Close To Home and Shades of Brown, and her drama serial Whose Sari Now was heard on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
Currently Artistic Director of Oxfordshire Theatre Company Karen Simpson is well known for her work at Sheffield Crucible and Action Transport. Designer Rachana Jadhav has worked extensively with Rasa, and also Nitro, Polka, Naach and Sheffield Theatres. Music and soundscape designer Jon Nicholls compositions have been heard on BBC Radio 3 and 4, Channel 4 and in theatres across the UK.
Handful Of Henna runs at the Royal Exchange (Studio) from 26 -27 March.