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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Habibti Driver – An East meets Wigan Comedy

Review By Hilary Dawes

This heart-warming comedy, by Shamia Chalabi and Sarah Henley, is based on Shamia’s own real-life experiences, with Shazia beautifully played by Shamia herself, as the daughter of an Egyptian father and English mother, who was born and grew up in Wigan.

Taxi driver Ashraf, brilliantly portrayed by Dana Haqjoo, is trying to explain to his daughter Shazia the reason for his recent trip to Egypt, whilst being economical with the truth! Shazia soon learns that he has re-married and is awaiting the imminent arrival in Wigan of his new bride, Yasmin. Ashraf can’t accept that Shazia has turned her back on her Muslim heritage and fears that the devout Yasmin will disapprove of his spirited daughter. Meanwhile, Shazia has yet to tell her father about her engagement to Chris.

A strong cast portray some some really well-observed characters. Ashraf’s brother Yusuf, played with great swagger by Hemi Yeroham, comes across at first as the villain of the piece, but deep down he has a kind heart and loves his family. Then there’s Shazia’s mum Jean, played with true northern wit and wisdom by Helen Sheals, who still maintains a fondness for ex-husband, Ashraf.

New bride Yasmin (a feisty and funny Houda Echouafni) throws herself wholeheartedly into becoming a true “British Citizen” with many a delightful turn of phrase as she grapples with the English language!

Timothy O’Hara gives an endearing performance as the hapless Chris, a kind and loving guy, gaining the sympathy of the audience as he puts his foot in it at every turn!

With some great one-liners and moments of high comedy, along with many nods and winks to Wigan culture for locals to relish, there are moments of poignancy too, as we feel the genuine warmth between father and daughter, in spite of their cultural differences.

With Ashraf’s taxi being central to the production, the creative team worked wonders with an imaginative set, and deserve special mention for the ingenious “car seat choreography” between scene changes.

Coming up next at the Octagon will be One Man Two Guvnors. On from Thurs 26 May until Sat 25 June

A brand-new production by Octagon Artistic Director Lotte Wakeham. With brilliant live music, side splittingly funny slapstick and a good dose of farce, join Francis Henshall as he finds himself juggling his two guvnors and a series of riotous events.

Bolton Octagon Howell Croft South, Bolton

Phone: 01204 520661

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