She’s Not Special is my favourite entry into this year’s Next Stage Festival. Written and performed by Fatuma Adar, this musical-comedy solo feels simultaneously flashy and guileless—a blend of pop-culture artifice and earnest testimonial.
Adar and co-director Graham Isador have masterfully dispelled that depressing flatness that creeps into so much digital theatre. Roya DelSol’s videography and editing has a cinematic quality that is dynamic and compelling.
Adar is a generous performer, the stage can barely contain that pop star persona. Her perfectly timed, conspiratorial asides confirm, though, that she’s very much there with us. Her songs are funny and clever and cutting. She challenges us without ever pushing us away.
She checks all the boxes.
And for her, that’s actually a yikes—a part of her deal with which she’s not entirely comfortable. But she’s owns it, anyway… like a boss—a Girl Boss! Ugh. These slogans, this pressure to be a token, to be culturally significant, to be attractive to funding bodies in grant applications—it’s exhausting.
Adar dismantles the very identity politics she must negotiate. Her comic sensibility is unflappable, finding humour even as she grapples with the personal and artistic snag that is her trauma. Is she a proper representation of the Black Muslim Woman experience? Why should she have to be? What does that even mean?
Adar unpacks the struggle to be authentic and inclusive and relevant. She holds our hand and assures us that, despite the pressures, we can find a place to share and understand and celebrate. It can be awkward and messy and very cringe, but that’s ok.
She’s Not Special is playful and sharp. It’s so much fun, you even enjoy the sting.