It’s been a while since I visited Waterside Arts in Sale and my first time inside the Robert Bolt Theatre.
What prompted my return trip down the Altrincham tram line? Why, Wednesday saw the opening night of Pride in Trafford, in its 5th year, with two shows, the first being Turtle Key Arts’ The Chosen Haram, written and performed by lead artist Sadiq Ali, with Hauk Pattison.
Based on Ali’s experiences of a queer Muslim in Edinburgh, the heady, hard-hitting yet beautiful acrobatic performance struck both a pose and a punch to the guts, from the opening moments where we saw Ali fight his way through his personal prison of repression and secrecy, as brought to life by the head to toe black plastic that bound him to the pole, to the closing moments of raw emotion and devastation by Pattison’s character as the lights faded to black.
Ali’s double-life as a mosque-attending young man with his head turned by the circus, is reflected in the visual and artistic storytelling of this show.
The imagery is powerful and clear but never without imagination and innovation, making clever and, well, startling use of the two Chinese poles as the two artists moved around them with such finesse, grace and light touch, I found myself looking for hidden wires.
Love, drugs and Islam are the overarching themes brought to the table, in 65 minutes of energetic and mesmerising movement, we were taken on a journey from repression to hedonism, taking in freedom, expression, love, authenticity and pride along the way.
The production is unashamedly bold and out there, from the simulated sex, to the glorious (yes it felt glorious – until of course, it didn’t…) literal snowstorm (wink) depiction of drug-taking, which couldn’t fail to amuse. Until it did.
The Chosen Haram was a show that wasn’t afraid to its message right to the brink …and an eventual push over the edge, as it refused to compromise on delivering what it needed to deliver.
Indeed the raw honesty and openness of Ali continued after the applause died down, as he thanked the audience and shared his loss and grief over a gay friend lost to drug use just the day before. I sincerely hope that Sadiq Ali doesn’t find my reiteration of this here intrusive, but his generosity of honesty and passion in alerting audiences to the very real and continuing struggles faced by many people, through both his art and subsequent words on stage last night, feels as important and relevant to pass on as anything else said in this blog post about the show.
And just as the promos promised, I can speak to the ‘banging soundtrack’, including the delicious inclusion of one Marilyn Monroe’s, I Wanna Be Loved By You.’ Superb.
To read more about the events taking place as part of Pride In Trafford, 17-20 May, you can visit https://www.prideintrafford.org/
Check on what else is on at Waterside Arts, Sale here: https://watersidearts.org/ including Bi-topia, running until Saturday 20 May.
You can also read more about Sadiq Ali at https://www.sadiqsadiq.com/bio