‘Adam’ (National Theatre of Scotland/BBC Scotland) | Review By Rebecca Donati

Can the soul of a man be trapped in the body of a woman? This remarkable story of Adam Kashmiry asks that fundamental question. Now showing on BBC iPlayer ‘Adam’ has been reworked and adapted for an on-screen production. As a Glaswegian anytime I hear of a theatrical phenomenon being created out of or based around Glasgow I am instantly captured. Having unfortunately not been able to attend stage productions of ‘Adam’ I was ecstatic to hear it is now accessible on a digital platform.  

Born in Egypt, Adam was assigned female at birth but always knew he was a boy. Trapped in a deeply conservative society, where falling in love with the wrong person can get you killed, he knew that he had to escape. With a borrowed laptop he typed in a question: ‘Can the soul of a man be trapped in the body of a woman?’ What followed was a catalyst to begin the epic journey for the right to change his body, to the boy he knew himself to be.  Written by playwright and dramaturg Frances Poet, and reworked for the screen, this hour-long drama focuses on Adam’s isolating experiences in a Glasgow flat while awaiting a decision on his asylum claim. Trapped in a Catch 22 where he cannot prove his need for asylum as a trans man until he transitions, but is unable to start transitioning until he is granted asylum, Adam is left alone to wrestle with his conflicting thoughts and feelings as every waking moment sees him haunted by figures from his past and present. 

Adam Kashmiry portrays himself in this production. This performance was somewhat heightened by the notion of Adam letting us into his world and telling his truth. Adam depicts this charming, funny and slightly geeky young man who is struggling to be heard. This true performance of his struggle as an asylum seeker and as a trans man is one that will blow you away. With every sentence, every glance and every movement Adam makes sure that he commands you to watch and listen. This is not a performance that seems to be in your face, you feel invited into his world and that is what makes this performance so wonderful. Adam sharing this story will reach the hearts of many and hopefully encourage people to open their hearts and minds and challenge their own morals. 

Yasmin Al-Khudhairi plays Adam in the body that he was assigned at birth and is referred to by most of the characters as Alexandria unless corrected by Adam. There is a particular piece of acting in which Alexandria shares a kiss with a colleague of the same sex, this is an offense which could get you killed in their conservative society. Yasmin played this fear and anxiety beautifully and the feeling of perhaps deception led Alexandria to tell their colleague that they are a boy. When caught there was a fear instilled within the audience as Alexandria/Adam’s disgusting boss threatened to rape them or tell the authorities, and noted that he was doing them a favour by “curing” them. You can see the fear in Yasmin’s eyes as he threatens her and the inherent uncomfort of knowing that if he was able to be himself that he would be celebrated for being with a woman as a man. You also see Alexandria struggle with gender dysphoria and having the intention to harm their body in order to look more masculine. This is heartbreaking and a real eye opener for those who may have never known anyone who is trans or non-binary.  

Myriam Acharki who plays Adam’s mother gives a beautiful performance. A mother’s love can be a bond like no other, however, being a conservative family; would Adam’s wish to be himself cause a divide between mother and child? Myriam plays a wonderful depiction of her inner struggle. Her journey begins with denial and a lack of understanding. Myriam displays how through the protection of her child a mother’s reaction can be emotionally damaging even if it comes out of love. At the end over a video call Myriam’s reaction to seeing Adam with a beard made for an anxious moment as a spectator however her reaction came across authentic. One of the most emotional moments was to watch Adam’s mother accept his name and to call him by his chosen name. Myriam delivered this beautifully and although you do not agree with the conservative ideals you always feel somewhat empathetic towards Adam’s mother.  

The Adam World Choir is a world choir built up of trans and non-binary people. At the end of the production, they appear on screen singing Jocelyn Pook’s epic choral original score. This image was extremely powerful as it adds to the notion that you are truly not alone. This image projected a strong sense of community and solidarity. 

Cora Bisset and Louise Lockwood have done a beautiful job directing this piece and reformatting it for a digital performance. The lack of set and props and the simplistic feeling you get allows the story to take the limelight and the actors drive the play without the use of any major distractions to the audience. 

Frances Poet, a Glasgow based writer has done wonders to tell Adam’s story in such a warm and engaging way. She connects the story of Adam’s struggle to transition and his struggles of being an asylum seeker beautifully.  

I found this production breathtaking. It was a beautiful genuine story which has become widely accessible at a very important time. Over the last year we have seen an attack on the trans community online. It is important now more than ever that this type of representation is brought to the forefront of media. To the trans and non-binary people who may read this – we see you and we stand with you.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Link to BBC Iplayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000t3h1/adam 

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