It is a hard heart that remains unmoved by Frances Poet’s emotive trans play Adam, passionately directed by Cora Bissett, which enjoyed critical acclaim at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe where it debuted at the Traverse Theatre.
Based on Adam Kashmiry’s real life struggle, from Egypt to Scotland, it stars Kashmiry himself, alongside Neshla Caplan as Adam during his girlhood (and his conscience) struggling to live with gender conditioning when she knows that inside she wants to transition to male. Broken mannequins symbolically litter the stage, the sense of gender as a construct is a recurring theme- just dressing up.
The pair also take on various roles elsewhere- of outsiders,pen-pushers, always watching and judging Adam . Paradoxes of language are the frame by which Poet’s script hangs- as with the two playing two genders, the idea of contronyms is laced throughout. ‘Screen’ and ‘bound’ are but two examples of words with twin meanings.
Jack Henry Jones’ video footage of the Arab Spring uprising further enhances Adam’s struggle, those protesting against the Egyptian ultra-conservative regime mirroring and reinforcing the sense of fury, otherness and alienation felt by Adam.
Two beautifully weighted performances deal with unflinching issues of a sexual assault; self-harm and societal incomprehension, but these moments are brightened by astute, often bawdy humour. Poet’s script can be a little exposition-heavy at times- and sentimental- but it’s an evocative and visceral paean to becoming who you really are, in the face of resistance.
Jocelyn Pook’s beautiful, chiming score wraps around the tense scenes of discovery, with gorgeous vocals by Juliana Yazbeck, but it’s the swelling choir of over one hundred trans voices , singing out in solidarity on the video screen at the end, which deliver the final body blow.
Resistance is futile; resistance is necessary.
Citizens Theatre, September 16th. Run ended.