'East meets Wigan' comedy to get world premiere at famous theatre

A brand new “East meets Wigan” comedy is to be staged in a famous theatre’s impressive spring line-up.

By Holly Pritchard
Saturday, 9th April 2022, 12:30 pm

Habibti Driver is written by Shamia Chalabi, from Standish, and co-author Sarah Henley.

It was first performed as a play reading in Bolton Octagon’s First Bite series in 2019, where its success has meant audiences can now enjoy a full scale production of this heart-warming comedy.

It’s the first play written by actor Ms Chalabi, who has an English mother and an Egyptian father.

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Actress and Writer of Habibti Driver, Shamia Chalabi

Having a love and passion for theatre but not seeing much representation of mixed-heritage families living in the north of England, is what inspired her to write Habibti Driver. ‘Habibti’ is a term of endearment in Arabic (something her father would call her) and driver coming from her father’s job as a taxi driver.

It is directed by Sepy Baghaei, in co-production with Tara Finney Productions, making its world premiere debut on the Octagon stage from April 21 to May 7.

Ms Chalabi said: “I started writing because I didn’t ever see my own experience projected back to me on stage.”

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Actors, Timothy O'Hara (Chris) and Shamia Chalabi (Shazia).

A talented cast of six actors star in this production that explores the clashes, compromises and comedy that come with living in a mixed-culture family in today’s Britain.

Ms Chalabi said: “Habibti Driver is a reminder of the importance of family no matter what shape or form. It’s got a lot of heart, a lot of laughs and there’s something in there for everyone.”

The plot is about when relationships are put to the test for Ashraf, an Egyptian Muslim taxi driver, and his half-Egyptian, half-Wigan daughter Shazia, as the play is based on Ms Chalabi’s real-life experiences. Join the family in Ashraf’s taxi as they navigate driving lessons, sing karaoke and explore whether, despite their differences, family can win regardless.

The two writers said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Habibti Driver is getting its world premiere at the Octagon.”

Actors, Helen Sheals (Jean) and Timothy O'Hara (Chris).

Director Sepy Baghaei said: “I can’t wait for Octagon audiences to join us for this funny and moving exploration of what it means to grow up in a mixed-culture family in contemporary Britain.”

Tickets start from £15 and are on sale now. Book tickets via the Octagon Box Office on 01204 520661 or atoctagonbolton.co.uk

Actor, Dana Haqjoo (Ashraf).