Review: Adam, National Theatre of Scotland with Hopscotch Films and BBC Scotland
5.0Overall Score

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(TW: References to sexual violence.)

First premiering at the Traverse Theatre in 2017, Adam has now been a riveting success for over 3 years – I recall the instant buzz about this show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and distinctly remember how tricky it was to get a ticket. Now, in 2021, the show makes a smooth evolution into the world of film.

Produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, Adam documents the life and battle of a young trans man, Adam Kashmiry, as he seeks asylum in Glasgow after having to leave a conservative Egypt. Left alone in the exile of his flat, Adam can’t seek asylum until he ‘proves’ that he’s in transition; but he can’t begin transitioning until he’s been granted asylum. He’s alone, and he’s trapped.

What is astoundingly powerful about this show is that Kashmiry plays himself. Not only is this incredibly brave, but we, as the audience, are acutely aware that we’re watching him relive this story, and chilled by its truth.  In an honest recollection, we see what it’s like as a trans man to have periods, to experience a first kiss, to live in a foreign body, to wear make-up and dresses and to navigate how to communicate your most confusing feelings to other people who don’t understand – This show should be added to the school curriculum.

A clever feature of Frances Poet’s script is the use of the English language to generate a beautiful metaphor. In English, a single word can have several meanings or connotations. So, a word can be two things at once and two opposites can be a whole, much like Adam. In contrast to this, we get an insight into the gender structures of Egypt, through the Arabic language:  You cannot say “I love you” to someone without referring to their gender. This proves to be a crucial element of the piece, which brings us to the crux of Adam’s relationship with his mother. Will she be able to say “I love you” to her son, and not to a daughter?

This film, at some points, feels like a horror. A terrifying real-life nightmare, with a trippy and lucid feel. Carlo D’Alessandro’s cinematography allows us to move seamlessly from interrogations in Glasgow, to desperate and dangerous situations in Egypt, where rape is considered a ‘cure’ for the ‘abnormal’.

I have always been incredibly grateful for the freedom that we have as individuals in this country – even if all feels bleak after this week’s events. We have the privilege of freedom of speech and we are allowed to be whoever we want to be. The fact that people can be themselves, and feel safe to be so, is undoubtedly something to be proud of. And that is always worth fighting for.

Ending with a stunning choral piece, from a choir of 140 trans and non-binary volunteers, Adam leaves us with a stark, but often necessary reminder, that “we are all just people”.

Adam is available to watch online at BBC iPlayer. For more information, see the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.