A retrospective entry… I was delighted to direct The Hijabi Monologues, Ireland recently. This project was co-hosted by the British Council, the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) and Axis Community Arts Centre in Ballymun where the event premiered. The show ran in Dublin in March and was seen again in October at the Belfast Festival and most recently, in abridged form, at the WOW (Women of the World) festival as part of Derry/Londonderry City of Culture 2013.
The Hijabi Monologues Ireland is a licensed production of the US ‘Hijabi Monologues’, which has been touring in the United States to critical acclaim and great success for the past six years. For this version, Muslim women in Ireland were invited to submit personal and true stories. The writers worked with playwright Deirdre Kinehan and their testimonies were woven into a performance which also included several of the original American monologues by Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah, founder of the program, as well as other American Muslim writers. The piece transcended boundaries, and the stories which ranged from the humorous to the poignant were accessible to all and universal in their reach.
When I was asked to come in and work on the final phase of the show (which had been 18 months in development), I knew a little but not a lot about Muslims in Ireland and internationally. The purpose of the project was to focus on the woman not the apparel about which there has been much debate in recent times – a great deal of it misinformed. I learned an awful lot in a short period about this complex subject, but mainly I was reminded that cultural differences are usually simply that – cultural differences, not fundamental differences. I met brilliant people from Ireland, Britain, Pakistan, Holland, Iraq and many other places. I worked with a terrific cast – Maeve Fitzgerald, Yameema Mitha and Orla McGovern and a great producer, Niamh NiChonchubhair (as well as the fabulous Marella and Joe in production).
Ireland was chosen as the first European country to host its own version of this global project. Versions will soon be presented in the Netherlands and in Britain with British Council support. It was an unexpected privilege to work on this particular project. I didn’t know in January this year I would be directing this show – I am now the richer for doing it!
The British Council commissioned a short film documenting aspects of the process and their website has a link to this record.
Hilary Fannin writing in The Irish Times in April about her thoughts on the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath made very positive mention of the Ballymun production. Here is a link to her article.