Photo: Angus Leadley Brown

A note from the writer

If a young woman or girl has the need to runaway, what is she running from and where to?  I suppose these were the questions I’ve attempted to tackle in Sweet Cider.

The majority of girls who do run, thankfully, do not end up as honour killings.  But what can happen involves a complex mix of loosened family connections and cultural alienation. This can sometimes leave the girls feeling they have little option but to return to what they know best: the oppressive environment from which they had originally fled.

The play isn’t just about the girls, even though that was my starting point.  I wanted to explore the context, the community they run from.  The play is set in a park, a place where all the characters gather, and it is here we see this community at crisis point.  What happens when we’ve allowed fear to take hold?  What level of hurt do we inflict on each other? And ultimately, how is it that we survive?

I was 16 when I ended up in an Asian women’s refuge.  On my second night there, the girls took me to a pub - I had never been in a pub in my life!  I had no idea what to drink and how to ask for it. The girls told me to ask for sweet cider: “it’s like apple juice,” they said.  So I asked for a glass of sweet cider, and the bar staff replied, “would you like half or a pint?”  I felt so stupid!  "Say half," the girls said.

I was a real innocent abroad. And this is where the title came from. Perhaps this is a generational thing, but sweet cider seemed to be the first drink a lot of people drank. And for me certainly the first drink I got really absolutely totally out-of-my-head on.  So it kind of represents entering the adult world, being involved in something that’s fun and equally dangerous. And the bittersweetness of life.

Emteaz Hussain

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