Monday, 7 August 2017

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 Reviews 1 - Adam - Traverse Theatre - Five stars / Eve - Traverse Theatre - Four stars / You've Changed - Summerhall - Three stars

Two versions of Adam Kashmiri stand onstage in Adam, Frances Poet's eponymous biographical play of this young man's remarkable life. One, played by Neshla Caplan, is a version of the girl he used to be back home in Egypt. The other is Adam here, now and living in Scotland as the man he later became.

In Poet's script for Cora Bissett's National Theatre of Scotland production, we follow Adam, from his resistance to being forced into girly dresses to first love in the clothes shop he works in, risking everything in the misogynist society he grew up in. All this is played out against a backdrop of Adam's arrival in Glasgow as an asylum seeker, while the failed Egyptian revolution blazes on his TV screen.

What becomes clear as Adam discovers an online community just like him is, not only how open he is about everything he's been through, but how remarkably sane he has remained throughout it all. Kashmiry plays himself with a chirpiness that is accentuated even more by Jocelyn Pook's haunting score, and especially by the virtual presence of the Adam World Choir, a global digital convening of transgender and non binary people giving voice to their combined universal power. As Adam's story is brought up to date, real life events that make for infinitely happier times can't help but tug the heart strings in a powerful story of transcendence that comes in in many, many ways.


“I was a star from a very early age,” Jo Clifford says as she gazes at a picture of her childhood self in her new solo play, Eve, for the National Theatre of Scotland. The picture dates from when she was still a boy, posing for Picture Post. It's a telling observation that comes from a sense of self-awareness which has seen Clifford gradually come to terms with her inner woman and let her run free.

Sitting on a white platform and dressed in a long robe, Clifford already looks to have reserved a seat in paradise as she relates her story. Penned with Chris Goode for Susan Worsfold's production, Eve sees Clifford talk us through her back pages accompanied by images of himself, from puzzled little boy, to uptight public schoolboy, to dazed and confused hippy. Through all these different incarnations in search of self, Clifford's latter day mirror image stands amazed at how she got here.

As she moves through her life, as with much of her writing, the text is laced with a spiritual understanding of what it means to transform and transcend the urge within. Neither purging or confessional, Clifford has laid bare a very necessary telling of truths.

The last time Kate O'Donnell performed in Edinburgh, her name was Andrew, who performed a drag show under the name of Angel Valentine. As identity crises go, she proved to be ahead of the curve in her embracing of her non-binary self. In You've Changed, O'Donnell takes the well-worn tropes of a drag show and transforms them into n even more intimate exchange.

Opening with O'Donnell clad in full-on slicked-back 1930s dicky bow and tails (no top hat) that taps into old school sapphism, she and her similarly apparelled assistant and dance partner put a spotlight on the nips and ticks of trans-liberation. Utilising silent movie captions, a peek-a-boo cabinet and a brief foray into audience participation, O'Donnell's candour is peppered with an eyebrow-raising waggishness that is served with considerable dandyish charm. This suggests that, for O'Donnell, at least, a life in reverse is a life well lived.


The Herald, August 7th 2017
 

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