Tales of the Harrow Road started life as a series of workshops, finding out the stories behind the lives of Arabic and Bangladeshi women now living around around Paddington. Writer In-Sook Chappell and director Suzanne Gorman winkled out tales of love and loss, homesickness and fear, drama and comedy, and wove them together to form this patchwork of interconnecting lives.
Leyla is the fully assimilated daughter of Iraqi exile Sukaina, but both are scarred by years spent on the run and Leyla yearns to know about her missing father and the gaping hole it has left in her life. Mukti is meeting Joy, the marriage broker, and receives a proposal from a famous Bangladeshi singer who may or may not sport his own hair. These characters are played by professional actors but there is also a stream of fully realised and grounded minor characters performed by a cast recruited from the local community: the mysterious woman in an abaya who trails up and down the street, pleading with strangers in Arabic, the acrylic-hair-extensioned young woman doing community service for being caught with shrooms en route to Glastonbury, the artists in Sukaina's English class and the organiser of a cabaret night in the local pub where everyone's stories coalesce and find a little bit of redemption.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable hour containing some real laugh-out-loud moments and full of genuine heart. It doesn't flag and neatly sidesteps the trap that workshopped theatre occasionally falls into of being a bit worthy. Catch it in Soho now or next week at the Cockpit Theatre, nearer its spiritual home.
Tales of the Harrow Road is at the Soho Theatre until tomorrow, 7pm, and the Cockpit Theatre 10th-13th November, 7pm and 13th November 3.30pm, tickets £7.50 / £5. For more information see the Soho Theatre website.