Bravery expresses itself through many faces, but the struggle to actually reveal this face can take years. For Nadia P. Manzoor,the revelation has come in the form of her one woman show BURQ OFF, in which she astoundingly portrays 21 characters from her rigid Pakistani Muslim home in the small English town where she was raised.
As a child, Manzoor peered through her bedroom window, hoping to become an astronaut. Yet, in a culture where little is encouraged besides motherhood and becoming a dutiful wife, such dreams are not an option. Imitating both her mother, father, brother, grandparents, and other family members, Manzoor reenacts the rule driven environment she had to endure on a daily basis.
Like any rebellious child, she vehemently fought against authority to carve her independence. Actions which included dating a non-Muslim boyfriend, getting drunk, and having sex were all part of the equation. At the same time, she struggled to blend in with her fellow Brits, many of whom failed to find understanding or compassion with her and her family.
Manzoor’s journey begs to ask the question, “It is possible to show respect and understanding for a religion when their steadfast laws often manipulate and oppress?” Though she physically moved from her childhood home and has shrugged off the dogma of Islam, she maintains respect for certain aspects of it and acknowledges that it has turned her into the woman she is today. Clearly that answer is “Yes”,
Moments with her mother are particularly touching and make clear the fact that, in spite of her daughter’s defiance, her mother found it in her gentle heart to finally empathize with her choices and, in a quiet way, lived vicariously through Nadia.
Director Tara Elliot, set designer Mitchell Ost, and Manzoor herself have created a swift, vivid, thought provoking, and sometimes humorous true tale that will leave you wanting more. Fortunately, Manzoor is working on a second show, so satisfied audience members will get their wish.
For tickets and more information, visit http://nadiapmanzoor.com/on-tour/#about