by Lynn on February 10, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming on demand as part of Next Stage Theatre Festival, until Feb. 13, 2022.

Created and performed by Fatuma Adar

Directed by Fatuma Adar and Graham Isador

Set and lighting by Joe Pagnan

Sound by Christopher Ross-Ewart

Director of photography, Roya DelSol

Music supervisor, Ben Elliott

Musical direction by Adrian Hogan

Videographer, Roya DelSol

Fatuma Adar is an artist with a lot of ambition but is full of doubts. She describes herself as a Black Muslim Woman and she’s under a lot of pressure to measure up; be successful; and contribute to Black excellence.

Fatuma Adar is also an artist who is brilliant.

In a world increasingly devoid of humour, irony and subtlety, Fatuma Adar is briming with the gift of humour and being ironic and subtle in her presentation. The result is a show that is bracingly funny, perceptive, challenging, and thought-provoking.

The show was supposed to be presented live at the Ada Slaight Hall but as she says: “…ya know, shit happened.”

Fatuma Adar’s world is established immediately with a filmed shot of the street signs of Kipling and Dixon Road. The walls of her apartment are adorned with post it notes that are about failure: “you suck”, “you’re not good enough,” “You should have stayed in med school,” But then her other world appears, the world of theatre as she rushes into the building to the Ada Slaight Hall and she begins her filmed show She’s Not Special.

You get the sense that Adar has added to her pressure by conjuring the name of Beyoncé when she says early in the show: “I’m not Beyoncé but there is a part of me that thinks I could be.” With all the things that informed Fatuma Adar’s life, being a Black Muslim Woman, is only part of it. Adar ramps up the pressure by wanting to be a writer and doing what she loves. Will she be able to make a living? Will her parents be proud? Will she be able to convince them that that she can support herself and contribute to them? Will she feel she is selling out by changing her ‘perspective’ when applying for grants? What will people think of her? Who is she trying to impress? Does she need to? Is she a representative of diversity or a token? Should she care? Questions. Questions.  

In a wonderful scene (in a show full of them) Adar is interviewed by “The Hollywood Reporter” (Graham Isador).

Graham Isador (who is also the co-director with Fatuma Adar) as the Reporter, with a wonderfully unctuous, superficial smile asks Adar questions without actually listening to her answers. He has his own agenda to play into the notion she isn’t good enough. He asks if her show “is to give white people the experience of walking in your shoes?” With the subtlest of reactions to the questions and looks to the camera we get the nuance, the sense of discomfort Adar is experiencing with this insensitive questioning. The scene, and the whole show, is directed by Fatuma Adar and Graham Isador with exquisite delicacy for maximum result.

Every part of this production works beautifully to create this stunning show. Adrian Hogan provides the musical accompaniment to Adar’s clever songs that is never intrusive. Joe Pagnan paints with light and sets the stage with understatement. The sound by Christopher Ross-Ewart heightens our attention, and Roya DelSol’s camera work hones in, enlivening reactions and makes the audience look harder and be more keenly aware.  

In a blurb on the show Adar says her show is “on a mission to free you from the clutches of exceptionalism and teach you how to relish in the joys of mediocrity”. Fatuma Adar will never be mediocre if She’s Not Special is any indication.

Fatuma Adar is brilliant. See her show and anything else she creates.

Produced by HomeMadeIt Productions and Pressgang in association with Pandemic Theatre

Plays on demand until Feb. 13, 2022.

Running Time: 60 minutes.

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