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Two young women speak on the life and death of their characters who tried to do wonderful things in the name of religion. However, they were met with men who twisted the words of their respective gods to fit their ill wills.
Rape and Domestic Abuse
While one could argue the character Samira has far more of a meaty storyline than her counterpart Tillie, in the end things balance out as the two women speak on their stories dealing with misogyny, the use of religion as a sword and shield, and their place in separate campaigns which affect(ed) the world.
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
The play focuses on two young women from different times. Tillie (Felicity Houlbrooke) is an English woman born into the age when the empire still existed. She simply sought a husband at first, wanted to do her Christian wifely duties, and all she ended up with was a man who willingly would abuse the Afghan people either for sport or pleasure. On the other end, we have Samira (Filipa Braganca) who is a modern woman, of Syrian origin, who is aware of Donald Trump, is as chatty as Tillie, but has a seriousness to all she says for she doesn’t have the same privilege as Tillie.
These two women from different times, at first, seem so different that comparisons almost seem insulting. Yet, in retrospect, you see one key thing which connects them: The abuse of men and the idea that men will use religion as a weapon more often than a blanket.
Samira: For me, it was all about Braganca as Samira. For, as often noted on any film dealing with terrorism and Muslims, there is always this desire to see things from the other side. Which is part of the reason why I saw this play. Muslim voices are in short supply and, as history has shown, those who are silent will often be spoken for. So to hear why a girl like Samira, someone precocious, studious it seems, and interested in politics, would become a wife to a terrorist is something of interest. Especially as Braganca plays her with vulnerability, an easy which quickly makes you comfortable with her, and with a wit which tickles you. I mean, it has probably been a while since I cried at a performance, be it live action or on the screen, but toward the tail end of her story, as things go to hell, I do think some could find themselves getting teary eyed.
Men and Religion: There is a beautiful thing said toward the end of the play that if I had the script I would quote. However, one isn’t so lucky so I’ll paraphrase and it went something like “The word [of god] is perfect, but man’s interpretation and use of it is not.” Which I thought was a powerful statement, especially in terms of Samira’s story, for while both her and Tillie left their homes to do something good, and wanted to in the name of faith, it really is relevant to today’s society for Samira. After all, she is a woman in a culture which has bent the Koran to its will and has attempted to rewrite it and treat the world as foolish parishioners who need not open the source material as they preach their sermon. And as she goes into how woman are treated as some may believe they are helping the revolution, it leads you to question how many began their fight with good intentions? I mean, we have a ton of movies and shows about how someone started off good and became tainted to the point they couldn’t recognize themselves anymore. I wonder how many would-be terrorists perhaps that idea applies to?
But, to get back to the point, I love the topic of how men bend their faith for control and excuses for their actions. It’s the type of thing which makes you want to attend a religious studies class taught by an atheist.
On The Fence
Tillie: Let me be frank, it was an uphill battle for Tillie from the beginning. Not at all because of Houlbrooke, who could easily go commercial and play a Disney princess, but more so because the idea of putting an English girl beside a Muslim woman and perhaps making it seems their stories echo just didn’t sit right with me. Yet, Tillie does grow on you, all thanks to Houlbrooke. For while her jokes were flat, mostly because I likely couldn’t get the British references, she was very passionate about what she was saying even if it was of little consequence. I mean, Houlbrooke enthusiasm helped compensate for what Tillie lacked in serious drama. For with Samira dealing with rape, abuse, and a sadistic husband, Houlbrooke had to keep her character from becoming a sidekick some way, somehow.