Adam (4 stars)


Stirring and emotive TV adaptation of an important global story about identity and belonging

Four years ago, Adam was a sensation at the Edinburgh Fringe. The true story of a trans man born female in Egypt who moved to Scotland to live what he hoped would be a more accepted life has now made the step onto the small screen with equal success. Burdened by a full-blown identity crisis is difficult enough when you live in an open, liberal society, but when you're born in a nation that might well punish you on the spot for simply thinking a different way to 'the norm' is hell on earth. Still, as Adam shows, the West can't feel too smug over its treatment of those deemed 'other'.

With Adam Kashmiry playing himself here, you can grasp the magnitude of his relief and joy when he does a quick Google search on trans issues to discover that he is actually far from alone in the world. Frances Poet's script neatly utilises metaphor and cultural connections to emphasise the hidden reality which Adam had had to battle against: among his fictional icons are Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne who have to bury their true heroic selves under a mask of conformity. Meanwhile, Adam holds a fascination for contranyms, words such as screen and sanction containing two contradictory meanings within themselves.

Adam also encounters the two faces of officialdom: an empathy from a mental-health nurse (Stephen McCole) that is nevertheless hamstrung by bureaucracy, while the 'fairness' pursued by immigration official played with a sneering efficiency by Neshla Caplan proves itself to be nothing less than subtle hostility. Cora Bissett's direction retains the verve that was unleashed on stage, unafraid of offering content that is inevitably troubling for an audience, such as the opening scene of implied mutilation that Adam inflicts upon himself. While there is a sombre truth at the root of Adam, there is also an effervescent hope as symbolised in the appearance of The Adam World Choir featuring 120 non-binary and trans people who passionately sing their hearts out as this televised drama adaptation comes to a stirring close.

BBC Scotland, Saturday 6 March, 10.15pm.

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