Liberation Squares in Brixton House

Image by Mathushaa Sagthidas

Liberation Squares is the new play written by Sonali Bhattacharyya which opened on 2 May in Brixton House

Leslie Manasseh spoke to Milli Bhatia who directs the play and has worked collaboratively with the writer for many years. She sees her job as bringing the writer’s vision to life.

“The play is about three schoolgirls – they all have various modes of creative expression – one is a musician into hip hop, another is into graphic novels and the third is becoming a social influencer. During the course of the play they find themselves subjected to the government’s Prevent* programme and what begins as a story of friendship and teenage creative expression becomes an investigative piece which is about them on a quest to find out who referred them and why, and then to protest against it. It’s also about them finding their activism through creative expression.

Is it a play about political awakening? 

“In some ways it is but it is first and foremost about how quickly teenagers are forced to grow up and confront prejudices and the way they are being surveilled. These are gorgeous, playful, innocent teenagers, and their  creative expression is stifled by what happens. Sonali is able to tackle these quite dense political subjects but through the personal, and playful and theatrical….She always gets to the heart of the story”.

“It’s also a comedy. I fell in love with the characters –  their playfulness and innocence. Some of my favourite moments in the play are when the three characters are being teenagers in their bedroom –  beatboxing, rapping and making up dance routines.”

That said, the play obviously has a serious political side and message.

“The aim of the play is partly to spread awareness about Prevent. I’m pleased about the profound number of audience members who have not known about Prevent and have gone on to educate themselves about it. There are countless stories about young Muslim people being referred (for trivial reasons) to the Prevent programme. At the end of the play we project a QR code linked to a report by Amnesty International which claims that Prevent is an abuse of human rights.”

Although it is about teenagers and the Prevent programme. Milli believes this is a play for everyone. 

“It’s a play about many things – hip hop and music. It’s a play about Prevent which disproportionately affects young Muslim people. It’s a play about a being young person in London. It is a political play but it’s also a hip hop comedy and it’s great fun as well”.

Liberation Squares runs from 2 – 11 may in Brixton House, 385 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8GL. Tickets from £16 – £22. For further information go to

*Prevent is a controversial government initiative designed to identify extremism and prevent terrorism by requiring public bodies to refer individuals to the police if they are thought to be a potential terrorist threat. The definition of extremism is widely drawn and thousands of people including schoolchildren have been caught up in it.


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