I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling over the past few days. That’s partly because I was lucky enough to go to the theatre again at the weekend to see Full English, a brilliant production from Bradford based company Bent Architect.
Bent Architect always present interesting, thought-provoking, very human productions, full of heart – and their latest is no exception.
Actor Natalie Davies’ brilliant semi-autobiographical play Full English, which is heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure, tells the story of her grandmother Cath who was one of a number of young white British women who fell in love with and married Pakistani men who came to work in West Yorkshire in the 1960s and 70s.
The women went on to raise mixed race children and experienced hostility from both their own families and the Asian community. Lucy Hird and Kamal Kaan play the young couple and their touching love story is beautifully, and very movingly, told as they support each other through difficult times, facing prejudice with fortitude and trying to do the best, against all the odds, for their growing family. The structure of the piece is intimate and inclusive with Davies narrating the story and at times stepping into the narrative. Sometimes she is herself as an adult visiting her elderly grandmother, whose memory is failing her, in a nursing home and at others her great-grandparents who strongly disapprove of Cath’s relationship.
Davies is a warm and engaging storyteller and she held the audience at Kala Sangam in the palm of her hand throughout the evening. She pulls no punches in the depiction of the racist attitudes that she herself, her white grandmother, her Pakistani grandfather and her mixed race mother have all had to face. She talks about the race riots that took place in Bradford in 2001, the fact that as a teenager she would deny her own heritage in order to fit in and she explains that the play was partly prompted by an incident when she was out in a cafe with her baby daughter, who is white, and was asked who the little girl belonged to.
Ultimately though the play is uplifting – a celebration of what love and humanity can overcome and a tribute to Davies’ clearly much loved hometown of Bradford, a place that has historically welcomed people from many different parts of the world, making it the culturally diverse city it is today.
Natalie's Grandad & Gran on her Father's side - photo taken at Belle Vue Studios now held at Bradford Museums & Galleries.
Natalie's Father's side (he's 2nd from left bottom row) - photo taken at Belle Vue Studios now held at Bradford Museums & Galleries.