Having originally premiered at Ovalhouse in 2016, Ambreen Razia’s The Diary of a Hounslow Girl would go on to enjoy a successful tour, and spawned a BBC 3 Sitcom Hounslow Diaries. Now released as an Audible Original Studio recording, this chronicle of a Muslim teenager on the very outside of London life can be heard with author Ambreen Razia reprising the central role.
Our protagonist is a fictional character, Shaheeda, a young British-Pakistani girl who finds herself struggling to live both as a modern British teenager, and as devout Muslim in the way her mother would expect. Despite her home town’s importance within the title, we discover fairly early on that Shaheeda wants nothing more than to escape Hounslow, in fact what she hopes to escape is so much more than a physical location.
Whilst not strictly told in the form of a diary, it does outline the series of events over the course of the previous year that have led Shaheeda to this point, along with some supplementary, and often anecdotal, commentary about her siblings, and friends, Leonie and Tash.
By the time boyfriend Aaron appears on the scene we’ve realised that Shaheeda is more attracted to boys, experimenting with drugs, and drinking alcohol, than learning to cook, or understanding the nine parts to a Pakistani wedding. But at the same time The Diary of a Hounslow Girl offers this fine line between modern street-smarts and cultural heritage, and the fact that Shaheeda has such difficulty in treading that line will no doubt resonate with so many in similar positions.
It’s an intense piece of theatre, but there’s a chance that something has been lost in the audio recording, as it’s difficult to fully grasp the emotional weight of Shaheeda’s situation without the visual clues of facial expressions and body movements. The benefit is that the piece is clearly so important to its author, and that certainly comes through in the performance.
The character often comes across as a spoilt-child, and it takes some effort to empathise with her as the consequences of her actions come to light, but that said it does make for a thought provoking ninety minutes. It is at its most interesting when it explores the mother/daughter relationship and sets that against the cultural balance.
This audio recording of The Diary of a Hounslow Girl is a thoroughly enjoyable listen which will leave you with much to contemplate afterwards, it does however lack some of the crucial elements that would have been present in the staged version.