Wednesday 27 November 2019

Adam - Midsumma Festival preview

Adam Kashmiry risked being killed in order to live his life. The Egyptian born transgender man left his home and country at the age of 19 to seek asylum in Scotland for the opportunity to be himself. This extraordinary journey of resilience and strength was first performed at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is now making its Australian premiere this Midsumma Festival.

It took director Jacob Thomas less than a second after they read the script to know they had to put this on. “Adam’s story is an experience you can easily disregard through one’s privilege, which is exactly why it's vital for our communities to hear this story, particularly as seeking asylum is still incredibly difficult for LGBTIQA+ people," they explain. "White, Western queers - myself included - can forget, perhaps conveniently, how our communities abroad are surviving. They’re getting by without pride parades, support systems and events such as Midsumma. That’s not to say we’re without struggle here in Australia, but more that we can’t ignore the realities of our global queer families. We can hold both our struggles and the struggle of others at the same time."

Written by Frances Poet, Adam has two performers taking on the two distinct but complimentary characters of Adam. Previous seasons have been met with much critical acclaim in its story of a transgender person as well as its theatrical form. It’s something that Thomas was acutely aware of when taking on the role as director. “This is my first time directing in nine years, so it’s quite daunting jumping back in. I had a long break from theatre and focused on my human rights career while doing some drag on the side. This side-step has helped me come home to theatre and has complemented how we are approaching Adam.

“We have kept Adam’s story true to the text he developed with Frances and have stylised the show with our cast and design team to complement it for Midsumma audiences. Each iteration of a text will be different, and that’s what I love about theatre. You can take a powerful story like Adam’s and tell it to a new audience, in a different context, and it will resonate deeply on a human level."

These thoughts are echoed by one of the actors in Adam, Ollie Ayres. “One of the greatest assets to a production like this is the amount of permission that has been granted to us from Adam himself. He maintains that Adam in the play is a character based on his own experiences and this gives Juan Gomez and I as actors and Jacob as a director a lot of freedom to explore the character without feeling as if we are walking on eggshells or playing 'true to life'," he says. "The story is nuanced and challenging and I believe I have a lot to offer from my own voice as an artist as well as my own lived experience. Ultimately, all we can do is represent this story to the best of our ability, finding what makes these characters and these voices come alive and there is plenty of material that will connect with those who see it.”

"The biggest lesson so far has been learning how to be an advocate for more than my own perspective and let go of the fear of making mistakes," he continues. "Obviously as a white transgender man entrusted with the retelling of an Egyptian transgender man's story, there are clear differences in our lived experiences and our transitions, and it's about what I can bring to this story and its authenticity as opposed to the pursuit of total accuracy. The only person who can truly take full ownership of this story is Adam himself, and all I can do, with his grace and consent, is use my empathy, my intention and my craft to bring this important story to a wider audience."

“Further to Ollie's point, I would also add that theatre is a style of advocacy in itself and we have a responsibility to honestly and accurately perform the stories we are assigned, especially when they are outside of our own experiences,” Jacob tells me. “We have to do right by our communities overseas, to all trans people and to people seeking asylum. As Ollie said, it’s about meeting each other with empathy and being an ally to one another and hopefully this show opens hearts and minds, within and beyond our queer Melbourne bubble."

With rehearsals well under way, the team has been fortunate enough to have had the same shared vision since day one, resulting in a completely open and collaborative creative process. “Juan and Ollie are such wonderful actors to be working with. Their combined accomplishments as creatives, matched with the vulnerability it takes to do a show like Adam, is a dream come true,” Thomas says. “Ollie bringing his experience as a trans man and Juan bringing theirs as a non-binary person of colour, has really led the formation of the work. It makes directing them a joy when they continuously put effort in to get this show to the high standard it deserves. I’m extremely proud of them both, and I hope they’re proud of themselves. It’s a gorgeous young team of trans and non-binary people, and I couldn’t be happier."


1. The one food you can’t live without? 
Jacob: Cheese, especially a good Gorgonzola.
Ollie: Sushi!
2. What is the worst smell in the world?
Jacob: Wet carpet/damp towels.
Ollie: The smell of a crowded tram. 
3. What is the strangest fact you know?
Jacob: You can’t say happiness without saying penis.
Ollie: I used to work at the aquarium, so I have an unusual amount of useless information on fish stockpiled away in the hopes of coming back to me in pub trivia. All penguins are found in the southern hemisphere. A mantis shrimp uses a 'sonic-punch' to hunt that moves at such a high speed that the water around it boils.
4. How long would you last in a zombie apocalypse?
Jacob: Probably at least three minutes. Depends how transphobic the zombies are.
Ollie: I would last about five minutes. I'd be saving a lost dog or something and get eaten.
5. Which animal are you most like?
Jacob: I’d say a peacock because I’m loud, colourful and obnoxious.
Ollie: Probably a pug. Terrible immune system, really should be put down, can't breathe walking up steps and they always look a little worried. 


Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park 

Season: 4 - 8 February | Tues - Sat 8:00pm, Sat 4:00pm
Duration: 80 minutes 
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc 
Bookings: Midsumma Festival 

Image Credits:
Ali Choundhry

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