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Emotions run high for family watching own tug-of-love tale

When Molly Campbell and her mum Louise Fairlie went to see Tamasha Theatre Company's production of Sudha Bhuchar's play, My Name Is ... ,  it was an emotional experience.

The show, which tours to the Tron Theatre in Glasgow this weekend as part of the theatre's Mayfesto season, gets behind the sensationalist headlines that told how, in 2006, the then 12-year-old Ms Campbell was apparently snatched from her home on the Isle of Lewis by her father, Sajad, and taken to his native Pakistan. A few days later, Ms Campbell spoke to the world in a press conference to say that, far from being kidnapped, she had gone to Pakistan of her own accord, and would now rather be known as Misbah.

Ms Bhuchar's play, developed over six years after interviewing all three members of the estranged family, aims to set the record straight about a story that wasn't about race or religion, but was more about the painfully familiar fall-out when two people stop being in love, and what happens when a confused child gets caught in the crossfire.

What moved Ms Campbell the most, however, was seeing her parents portrayed so vividly through their own words, which Bhuchar knitted together into the play.

"It was so beautiful seeing my mum and dad," says Ms Campbell, 19. "Just seeing how they met and fell in love with each other. It was really emotional looking back at myself when I was a little girl, and I wanted to live with both of my parents. Everything that was said was our words, word for word, so I was literally watching and hearing my mum and dad. If it had been the wrong words, it might not have been so emotional. After the play, I went up to the man who played my dad, and I gave him such a tight hug, because it felt like it was my dad." Ms Bhuchar started developing My Name Is ... in 2007, when she visited Ms Campbell and her father in Pakistan.

"I became fascinated by the story behind the story," says Ms Bhuchar, "and wanted to look at how two people who had wanted to be together ended up in this tug of love that made headlines."

Ms Fairlie only became involved in the initiative after receiving an e-mail from her daughter.

"I didn't respond to Sudha at first," she says, "because I didn't want to get involved with anything that might upset Molly. Like her, I never thought I'd be somebody who would ever be interviewed for something like this. Then when I met Sudha, I said she'd better bring two dictaphones with her, because I talk a lot."

Joking aside, Ms Fairlie admits that the process "wasn't easy, because I had to open up old wounds".

"Molly went to Pakistan in 2006, and Sudha came to see me in 2008, and I'd spent all that time in between trying to forget, and now I had to remember it all again, so it was emotionally draining having to do that. I wanted to scream from the rooftops that it wasn't just Molly this happened to.

"We are the lucky ones, because we're back together, but how many children get taken away from their parents like that? It's more widespread than people know, and is quite heartbreaking, so if what comes out of it is people understanding something about that, then I'm glad that I've done it."

Despite the play's relatively lengthy development period, Ms Bhuchar has opted not to bring Ms Campbell and Ms Fairlie's story up to date with their ongoing reconciliation.

"The play ends with emotions still raw," says Ms Fairlie, not wanting to give too much away. "It shows the breakdown of an entire family, so it's not a happy ending."

Ms Campbell, however, would like to see things taken further.

"I think it would be good to make a movie of it and bring it up to date to where we are now," she says.

If that ever happens, what any director should make clear more than anything is how, despite the trauma of everything they have been through, just how devoted daughter and mother are to each other.

"I'm so in love with her," says Ms Fairlie of her daughter. "At night we leave our bedroom doors open and the hall light on so we can chat. We are just inseparable. It's wonderful. We are so alike, like two peas in a pod."

Daughter is equally gushing in her praise for mum. "It's not like a normal mother and daughter relationship," she says, "because to me it feels like I've never really lived with my mum, so it feels really special."

Despite the high profile of My Name Is ... and the significance of their experience over the last eight years, neither wants their lives to be defined by it.

"Even now," says Ms Campbell, "a lot of people come up and say that they're glad that I'm back, but I don't bring it up much, because it's in the past. I was a little girl then.

"Me and my mum spend our lives trying to forget the past, looking forward and trying to learn from it."

Ms Campbell expresses a desire to go to college.

"I've got diplomas in finance," she says, "so fingers crossed I can run my own business one day. I'm still young, and I've got my whole future ahead of me."

"Onwards and upwards," says her mum, sounding the proudest a parent can be.

My Name Is..., Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thursday to Saturday.

www.tron.co.uk

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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