★★★★

Marsistan (pronounced Mars-istan) is the reason I come to Edinburgh Fringe. This little gem, hidden away in a hotel, explores the relationship between two siblings as one of them decides to venture off on a mission to Mars, described as a “colonial expansion with a clear conscience”. Aysha Malik (Layla Chowdhury), will be the first to make a trip to the planet Mars to set up a human colony. Her sister Nasreen (Anousha Persson), however, doesn’t feel Aysha should go.

Straightaway, this heart-felt drama grips us with the interesting concept and mastery of dialogue. The chemistry between the actors playing Aysha and Nasreen is so authentic that we never, even for a second, question the practicalities of the ‘mission to mars’ concept.

There is no rulebook for this conversation, and yet we fully understand the motives and actions of each of the characters. We feel the high-stakes, comedy and emotional turmoil that both sisters feel too. In the wake of Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women, this play explores what is to battle not just familial resistance to ‘changing the world’, but public resistance to a non-white woman changing the world.

Aysha, who understands that Islam and terror are now two words that follow each other around, doesn’t understand why she has to be associated with both. After all she is a doctor, she’s assimilated and she isn’t even Muslim.

My only gripe with the script is the amount of time the characters spent on the phone to each other. Perhaps there could have been a different way to explore the monologues and dialogues between them without having to resort to the same method again and again. However, the actors use the small space and minimal set well; their physical chemistry and back and forth dialogue is believable as a pair of sisters.

The humour and the smoothness with which the actors perform their characters makes up for the few technical issues during the play. Marsistan asks the important questions, what do you say to someone when you know it’s the last time you’ll ever see them? And is space travel Islamic? Everyone should see this play, which has only just begun its run at the Fringe.

Marsistan is playing Sweet Venues Novotel until 26 August. For more information and tickets, click here.

Photo: Lion Theatre Company