The play Spun showed that people are more than their clothes, skin, or accent. Below and around the character Aisha’s headscarf is a face. In that face is a brain that thinks, eyes that see, and a nose that smells perfume and bricks.
I nestled into my seat in the small Arcola theatre in East London. I could smell the brick around us in the underground studio and the perfume of the woman seated closely in front of me. The chatter was lively, filled with an audience anticipating another gem in this hidden studio.
I recommend this play to anyone open to learn. Extremism, radicalism, and fear run pungent now but the play shows there are still good people keeping on. Their exhibition of love amidst violence is refreshing and splendid for the audience throughout.
Then, the lights switch off. The two actresses take their spaces. They emerge with full character. Two Pakistani best friends, practically twins, that are extremely East London.
In the first scene, Safa slips past her very religious Muslim mother stunting a blue sparkling dress her friend Aisha helped her sneak out in. They party with each other, celebrating graduating university and half dreading the world they are fast approaching.
In the club, they shrug off men who approach them with typical “where are you from” questions and head nodding.
Safa finds a right and proper job in Central London while Aisha becomes a teacher’s assistant at her old school. Safa adjusts her East London accent while at work and adopts their proper English mannerisms, fake laughing at their jokes desiring to get a permanent job for her future.
Aisha meanwhile, is put with the kids in school and relegated to simple tasks on the playground.
They both get about fine with their lives until bombs go off during 7/7.
Aisha tells her students things will be OK as they have the scarves ripped from their heads walking home.
As time passes, Safa becomes more entwined in Central and drops her entire dialect for Queen’s English while Aisha stays in the East and embraces the change after the bombings.
Aisha begins to wear her dead mother’s headscarf to indicate she is Pakistani and unafraid of her culture, race, and identity.
More time progresses as Aisha and Safa break away because of the different lifestyles they lead. On Safa’s birthday while with coworkers, Aisha shows up with her headscarf on making Safa uncomfortable because she fears the embarrassment of showing her original culture and upbringing around white friends.
Aisha tells Safa she is fake for dropping her accent while Safa says Aisha is fake for wearing a scarf while not practicing Islam. They scream insults at each other and as Aisha walks past Safa to get home Safa rips off her head scarf.
The scarf was part of Aisha’s identity and Safa knew it. She looks at the scarf in her hands and cries into it.
Finally, a flashback of them as best friends.
“Your birth certificate will probably be like your death certificate.” Aisha said.
“London?” Safa asked.
“No, Newham.” Aisha says.
All the people born and all dying are their own. They have an identity bestowed to them by love. Deeper than skin accent or scarf.