The patriarch has died, a wedding is around the corner, and this South Mancunian Somalian family of women are imprisoned by a mother’s grief and her bid to save her girls from the world outside the home.

Ugdoon (Marcia Mantack) goes to and fro from the family business next door while her daughters are locked in mourning and wedding preparations. Tending to them is Mrs F.A. (Flo Wilson), a comforting cleaner and friend of the family indebted to Ugdoon. This is writer/director Yusra Warsama’s poetic focus on the diasporic eternal struggle for immigrant women, Of All The Beautiful Things In The World.

I love a set with solid doors and walls, it feels that I won’t be getting style over content. In this production at Manchester’s HOME, there is a constant sense of lush fabric folding and strewn naturally by the cast, a task that will never end. In Ellie Light’s design, the fluidity of the fabric, the solid compression of the walls, and the hopes and fears made physical by the windows and doors gives the play a sense that nothing is really contained. In a way, the materials are like smoke, water or souls – in flux within a false structure from which they will eventually escape. Life will blow the house down and everyone knows it.

Of All The Beautiful Things In The World by Yusra Warsama. Credit: Tom Quaye

Of All The Beautiful Things In The World by Yusra Warsama. Credit: Tom Quaye.

As the story unfolds, we understand the suffocating situation but the focus is on Ugdoon as the mother ship, having to steer her daughters and make strong decisions to keep them safe. Within this powerful cast, I could watch Wilson all day long, a rough jewel as soothsayer to the sisters. Meanwhile, Xsara Sheneille as the free yet delicate Suhela has feelings that seep through the seams with so much passion, suffocated by her constraints. Cora Kirk as Aalyah is fierce, yet we also see how choked she is by rules and by tradition. Sara Abanur as Miriam the older sister, disjointed and fearful but protective, has a strong and stoic nature.

But as this world tumbles in the folds of reality and romantic dreams, Mantack’s Ugdoon is unable to tune out the horror of reality. Mantack holds everything beneath the surface. When recollections of terror and moments of grief and love reached her eyes, I felt that completely.

There are many things I can’t connect with. I don’t understand the desperate feeling of layer upon layer of ignorance, sexism and racism – insidious and seemingly impenetrable – which mentally and physically incarcerates female immigrants. But where I do connect is with the love and horrors that life serves, in familial bonds and bonds of ancestry. And, at the gut of my stomach, the awful mistakes I have made in traumatic times, without time for reflection.

Of All The Beautiful Things In The World by Yusra Warsama. Credit: Tom Quaye

Of All The Beautiful Things In The World by Yusra Warsama. Credit: Tom Quaye

However, the poetics of the soundscape (by Tom Leah), and the music, clips from poets and from Eartha Kitt, created a perspective, a vision, rather than a drama, and not in a negative way.

There were so many killer lines and golden moments. This is one of those plays that I want to read. I’m left with a deeper sense of this experience and with the knowledge that, as a sister, mother and child, this is a fight not a journey.

By Cathy Crabb

Main image credit: Tom Quaye

golden-star golden-star golden-star golden-star


Of All The Beautiful Things In The World is at HOME until April 6, 2023. For more information, click here.