When young siblings Madani (Isambard Rawbone) and Maryam (Zarima McDermott) move to Kilburn they don’t expect to make new friends straight away. But, during her first day at school, Maryam is bullied for her Pakistani origins and, much to her surprise, classmate Alex (Aoife Smyth) intervenes. Alex is also new to the area and has yet to make any friends. Immediately, the two girls click and, together with Madani, the trio become inseparable.
Years pass quickly and, now teenagers, the three share thoughts and dreams. Come the final days of high school, they’re called to make important choices about their future. With adulthood, however, there’s also trouble. Progressing as a career-oriented feminist, Maryam inadvertently distances herself from the other two, becoming oblivious to their blossoming romance. A clumsy sexual encounter between Alex and Madani puts their friendship at stake, escalating into a painstaking confrontation about consent.
In 60 minutes, If This is Normal serves up a lot of food for thought. Some of the topics are universal; anxieties of growing up, the importance of making the right choices for the future. Others are just emerging into the global conversation, consent being one of them, strikingly depicted by playwright Lucy Danser in a scene that many can relate to.
Despite the best efforts of both Alex and Madani, a disturbingly thin line marks the distinction between approval and forbearance. With the author choosing to remain neutral, the audience is left without adequate answers. With so much happening at once, the end comes too soon. It is this missed opportunity to send a strong message that left me wanting for more. It would have been better to see less of the “before” and more of the “after” the incident, with an equal amount of attention dedicated to Medani’s understandable conundrum.
Delivered by three compelling actors, this is the sort of play that people can’t stop talking about on their way home, splitting opinions and sparking debate. To be more poignant, though, it needs to delve further into the core message, granting enough headroom to each contrasting view.
Author: Lucy Danser
Director: Helena Jackson
Producer: Chatback Theatre
Box Office: +44 (0)131 226 0000
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/if-this-is-normal
Booking Until: 26 August 2019