Canada’s first Muslim theatre company makes Toronto debut with Canadian premiere of SPUN
By rising UK playwright Rabiah Hussain
One night only Saturday, October 12 – 7:30 PM At the Meridian Arts Centre
“Hidden Gem […] Hussain writes stingingly of what it’s like to be working-class as well as Asian. A spellbinding, assured debut.” – FringeReview (UK)
Toronto, October 3, 2019 – The Silk Road Institute, Canada’s premier Muslim theatre company, presents the inaugural Toronto production of Rabiah Hussain’s fresh and fierce British drama SPUN, a play about friendship, belonging and South-Asian identity taking place in the wake of the 2005 London terror attacks. On the heels of its Canadian premiere at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre, SPUN, will tour to the Meridian Arts Centre (formerly the Toronto Centre for the Arts) for one night only, Saturday, October 12 at 7:30 PM.
The first-full length play from London-based writer and spoken-word artist Rabiah Hussain, SPUN premiered at London’s Arcola Theatre in 2018, where it received four-star reviews in The Stage and The Guardian, who hailed Hussain as “an utterly distinctive voice,” and the script, “playful yet profound, rooted, class-conscious and effortlessly poetic.”
“Yeah, but where are you really from?”
Safa and Aisha have been best mates for years. They used to skip school, study for exams together and even went to the same university. But for the first time, their lives are headed in different directions: Safa to work a big job in the city, and Aisha to remain in East London as a teacher. When the 7/7 London bombing occurs, the two BFFs suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of questions and suspicions, and their respective worlds starts to spin. As extremes from all sides take hold of the city, can their friendship survive the upheaval? Seen through the eyes of two young British Pakistani Muslim women, this funny and moving two-hander unravels the makings of a friendship, the emotional toll of racial microaggressions, and the challenge of keeping rooted through unstable times.
“We chose SPUN because its characters are seldom recognized in our everyday storytelling,” said Mohamed Shaheen, Artistic Director of the Montréal-based Silk Road Institute (SRI). “This story is of second-generation Muslim-born women who choose divergent paths as they enter adulthood, and as it develops, they begin to redefine themselves in the eyes of their Muslim community, the larger public, and their own estimations. They are complex and nuanced, fearless and heroic, anxious and confused, transcending the usual one-dimensional representations.”
Founded in 2018, the Silk Road Institute seeks to create a much-needed cultural space for Muslim-Canadian stories by taking multi-faceted narratives from within individual communities and connecting them to the broader Canadian experience. Carrying its vision across the Québec-Ontario border, SRI builds on the momentum of its inaugural stage outing of The Domestic Crusaders by American playwright Wajahat Ali. SPUN is the interdisciplinary company’s second professional theatre production.
“Wrestling with questions of belonging in increasingly polarized climatesand the intricacies of how communities handle everyday struggles,Ms. Hussain’s play will resonate strongly with audiences across provinces,” added director Mercedeh Baroque, a stage and film artist who has worked with Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the CINARS Biennale and the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels).
Baroque leads a duo of actors hailing from Toronto and Montreal: Pakistan-born Sundance Nagrial (Aisha), whose recent Toronto stage credits include The Indomitable Mrs. Rothman (New Ideas Festival/Alumnae Theatre) and We the Men (Soulo Theatre/Toronto Fringe Festival); and Amena Ahmad (Safa), who can be seen in Paramount’s Jack Ryan, NBC’s The Bold Type and CBC’s This Life. The multi-talented creative team shaping this Canadian premiere includes Michael Tonus (Set Design), Swati Khanna (Costume Design), Tim Rodrigues (Lighting), and Rehan Lalani (Sound).