Adam by Frances Poet – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

It is only gradually that the audience at the Traverse realises what it is seeing. Adam narrates the struggles of a girl fleeing Egypt for Glasgow in 2011, escaping not only the bloody Arab Spring but also the constrictions of gender. A cast of two, a young man and a young woman, play out the two sides of the fraught conversation in Adam’s head as he struggles with the attitudes of his family and Egyptian society to his conviction that, although born a woman, he is a really man. Played on a clever set (by Emily James) with props that unfold from the tiled floor, it seems like conventional theatre until it dawns on us that none of this is fiction.

The central character, played by Adam Kashmiry, is himself and his story is astonishing and heartening. The trauma of coping with refugeee status while injecting testosterone to induce a second puberty and become a man is both terrifying and horribly ordinary. Yet the story is a one of great hope. Adam’s performance, and that of Nesha Caplan as his female alter ego, is powerful. Some of the detail of the story seems to stretch credibility, yet any criticism of narrative or structure is rendered embarassingly irrelevant by thetruth of the events. A final Skype appearance from his real life mother in Egypt, provides an emotional denoument, while the internet plays a crucial role in showing Adam he is part of a community. This is a play that is direct and real, and it leaves the audience astonished.

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