• Tuesday, May 28, 2024


How writer Hunia Chawla found freedom in her play ‘Permission’

Hunia Chawla

By: Eastern Eye

NEW theatre play Permission follows a newly arrived Pakistani woman in London as she wrestles the expectations of being ‘respectable’, while being torn between a love for community and rebellion in a foreign land.

The fiercely feminist production leaping between different worlds, looks at themes that include freedom and identity.

The Arts Council backed production, which is written by Hunia Chawla, signals the beginning of an exciting journey for the new creative talent from Karachi.

Eastern Eye caught up with the writer described as a bold voice in contemporary theatre to discuss her play Permission, which has its premiere at The Space Theatre in London on May 28.

What first connected you to writing?

I have maintained a journal for as long as I can remember – writing for me has always been a way to connect with myself with honesty and empathy.

What inspired your new play?

Permission is inspired by the lives and struggles of all the women I’ve known while growing up in Pakistan, and the women we are about to become.

Tell us about the story.

Told in a two-hander format, the play explores the story of a newly immigrated Pakistani woman in the UK, and how she balances friendship and filial duty with a new-found sense of agency as an economic immigrant in the UK.

Who do you hope will connect with your play, Permission?

The socially and politically curious. Liberation stories about south Asian/ Muslim women often use white experiences as a measure of empowerment and freedom. The play begs the question – who decides what liberation looks like?

The poster for her new production, Permission.

What is your own favourite moment in the show? 

I love the moments between Hanna and Minza when they’re joking around.

 What inspired the interesting title of the show?  

A lot of south Asian teenagers use the word ‘permission’ in sentences such as ‘I don’t have permission’, ‘I might not get permission’ or ‘I need to ask for permission’. The play takes the aspiration for ‘permission’ and places it into adult life, examining how it interacts with larger power structures outside of identity politics.

How does it feel to have accomplished actress Anisa Butt in the lead role?  

I am absolutely thrilled about that. Anisa is brilliant.

She is the lead actor and executive producer on the show. We have been working together on this play for a while now. She is extremely talented and ambitious. I’m really excited to see her shine on stage.

 How do you feel ahead of the show being staged in London? 

I am really excited and grateful. It’s no small feat to stage a show in London.

But life has been kind, and everyone, including friends and strangers alike, have been extremely supportive.

According to you, what makes for great theatre?

I would say honesty, vision, and clever use of metaphor.

What fuels your creative inspiration?

Different things inspire me, including day-today conversations, a good book, film, song and so much more.

What are your aspirations for this production moving forward?

To stage this on one of London’s prominent fringe theatres, for more people to watch and enjoy the play.

Why should we all come and watch the show?

Because it’s a story that will make you think, laugh and cry at the same time. And because there are not many contemporary stories written by first generation immigrants in the UK that boldly address such topics around immigration, liberation, and justice.

Permission will be staged at The Space Theatre, 269 Westferry Road, London E14 3RS, from May 28 – June 1. Instagram: @Permission_ Play and www.space.org.uk

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