When Molly Campbell and her mum Louise Fairlie went to see Tamasha
Theatre Company's production of Sudha Buchar's play, My Name Is..., it
was an emotional experience. My Name Is..., 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 twelve year old 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, 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.
Buchar'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 Campbell the most, however, was seeing her parents portrayed so
vividly through their own words, which Bhuchar knitted together into
“It was so beautiful seeing my Mum and Dad,” says a now nineteen year
old Campbell, “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.”
Buchar started developing My Name Is... in 2007, when she visited
Campbell and her father in Pakistan.
“I became fascinated by the story behind the story,” says Buchar today,
“and wanted to look at how two people who had wanted to be together
ended up in this tug of love that made headlines.”
Fairlie only became involved in the initiative after receiving an email
from her daughter.
“I didn't respond to Sudha at first,” says Fairlie, “because I didn't
want to get involved with anything that might upset Molly, and 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, 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 inbetween 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're 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, Buchar has
opted not to bring Campbell and Fairlie's story bang up to date with
their ongoing reconciliation.
“The play ends with emotions still raw,” says Fairlie, not wanting to
give too much away. “It shows the breakdown of an entire family, so
it's not a happy ending.”
Campbell for one 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 Campbell and Fairlie are to each other.
“I'm so in love with her,” says Fairlie of Campbell. “At night we leave
our bedroom doors open and the hall light on so we can chat. We're just
inseparable. It's wonderful. We're so alike, like two peas in a pod.”
Campbell is equally gushing in her praise for her 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 Campbell or Fairlie want
their lives to be defined by it.
“Even now,” says 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.”
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 Fairlie, sounding the proudest a mum can be.
My Name Is..., Tron Theatre, Glasgow, May 29-31.
My Name Is... A timeline of real life events.
Molly Campbell was born in 1994, the youngest of four children to Sajad
Rana and Louise Fairlie, who had married in a Muslin ceremony in 1984
after Fairlie converted to Islam.
After the couple's divorce in 2001, all four children initially lived
with their father in Pakistan before moving back to Scotland to stay
with their mother.
In 2005, two of Campbell's siblings moved to Pakistan, while Fairlie
and Campbell moved from Glasgow to Stranraer, then Stornoway.
In august 2006, Campbell's sister met her outside her school, and, with
their father, flew first to Glasgow, then to Lahore, Pakistan.
After an international search following claims that Campbell had been
kidnapped, Campbell and her father took part in a press conference in
Lahore in which she stated that she had gone willingly to Pakistan, and
that she would now be known as Misbah Rana.
After a lengthy custody battle, an out of court settlement was reached,
whereby Campbell/Rana would stay in Pakistan of her own free will,
while her mother was granted access to her in Pakistan.
In 2011, Rana/Campbell moved to England to live with her sister, and
now lives in Scotland with her mother, with whom she is fully
reconciled. Rana/Campbell is still in touch with her father.
The Herald, May 27th 2014