Photo: Angus Leadley Brown

Photo: Angus Leadley Brown

Sweet Cider (2008)

By Em Hussain
A community is in crisis. Two Pakistani girls have run from their families: one is hunted, the other forgotten.

Their bid for freedom has led them to an Asian women's refuge in a nearby northern town. But with dialogue between the generations impossible, the girls soon ask themselves how sweet freedom really is.

A poignant story of fractured family ties, Sweet Cider is the debut play by Em Hussain. The play was commissioned by Tamasha following Em's outstanding work on Tamasha's New Writing course.


Director Kristine Landon-Smith
Designer  Sue Mayes
Lighting Design  Natasha Chivers
Sound Design  Mike Furness
Dramaturg Philip Osment

Cast Shammi Aulakh, Sudha Bhuchar, Taru Devani, Hamza Jeetooa, Tom Morrison, Aria Prasad, Sagar Radia, Rehan Sheikh, Rajneet Sidhu and Stephanie Street

Sweet Cider is supported by The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation and The Leche Trust.



Tamasha means commotion or creating a stir, and Sweet Cider does just that. The fact that this is author Emteaz Hussain’s dramatic debut is even more stirring as it displays remarkable maturity and lyrical grace."

What's On Stage 

"Stephanie Street is revelatory as a young girl burdened by the false promise of freedom. Her eventual breakdown provides a shocking end to an assured debut." 
Time Out 

"the kaleidoscopic display of fractured Asian lives forms a potent, urgent, unsentimental brew, spiked with high poetry and the unmistakable sting of the real…Hussain’s central story lands its punch with heart-rending accuracy."  

"Hussain has made a stong, involving debut, directed with assurance by Kristine Landon-Smith and finely performed by the cast" The Stage

"Hussain's ability to inject comedy into these troubled and haunted lives determines her position as a playwright to watch" 
Asians in Media  

Photos by Manuel Harlan

Whats On Stage Review >


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