JOYCE MCMILLAN on BLOOD at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 13.6.15.

3 stars ***

CANEZE AND SULLY are young and in love.  They’re both British Muslim kids, they’re both studying hard, and their future should be bright.  Caneze’s family, though, are a well-off Mughal clan with cash, influence, and their own teams of hit-men; and they have very different ideas about who Caneze should marry – certainly not an ordinary Pakistani boy currently working as a chef.

This is the 21st century Romeo-and-Juliet story that shapes Emteaz Hussein’s two-handed drama Blood, now given a UK-wide tour by Tamasha Theatre with  the Belgrade, Coventry; and it offers a bold, poetic and often frightening glimpse of the intense pressures that build up around Canese, as she is increasingly forced to choose between Sully, and all the connections of family and kinship that have shaped her life since birth.

In just 80 minutes, Hussein creates a full sense of these two complex young lives, as Sully returns to Pakistan to try to forget, while Caneze experiments briefly and chillingly with the obedient, wealth-bound life she would face if she married her  brother’s friend Yusuf; the language is fast-moving, a rich mix of modern English and Mirpuri-Punjabi, given an added twist by Sully’s comic addiction to the rhythms of black British street-speech.  And if the ending is indecisive – the lovers’ flight to the coast, and into the lower depths of Britain’s low-wage economy, seems more like a prelude to tragedy than the plot allows – Hussein’s vision of young people fighting for self-determination under unbearable pressure remains disturbingly vivid; and allows us no sense that there are any easy answers, when freedom comes at such a high price.

Tron Theatre, final performance tonight.



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