BN1 chats with… Adam (Brighton Festival)

As Adam Kashmiry chats away describing his established life in Glasgow and newly found bug for acting, it’s hard to imagine him as a young and confused transgender man, in a country where exile was his only choice.

Worlds apart from his life in Egypt, Adam found himself in Glasgow with a new-found refugee status in 2012. As we chat, Adam explains the series of unlikely events that led to his story being heard by thousands, touching lives and propelling the voice of the transgender community.

New to Scotland and on a mission to meet new people, he volunteered as part of a Scottish Refugee Council show called Here We Stay. He took part in a modest performance, which he describes as “small and simple, none of us were professional or anything” in celebration of asylum seekers and refugee’s life stories in Glasgow. Although he was reluctant to attend the event at the time, he reflects today on how glad he is that he made that decision back in 2012.

It was at this event that it all started for Adam. In a performance of just 5 minutes speaking about his life, Adam caught the eye of award-winning director, Cora Bissett. “She was really touched by what I said” he explains. Cora expressed interest in bringing Adam’s story to life, in a production with The Scottish National Theatre.

Having previously rejected offers for documentaries of his life, with no interest in making it a narcissistic memoir, Adam describes how Cora’s vision for the production appealed to his own way of thinking. Both wanted to shine a spotlight on the whole community through a real-life story. The story of Adam is the transgender battle across borders and genders.

He stresses that the production isn’t a pity Adam show, although the struggle of identity and themes of transgender and asylum are portrayed through his character, he describes how there is so much more than just Adam behind the play. “There’s loads of us,” he says, “Adam was just the face of a problem.”

For this reason, director Cora Bissett came up with the idea of a virtual choir uniquely incorporated into the play. The voices of around 140 transgender and non-binary people contribute to the magic of the play, with voices from Russia, Germany, America, and The Middle East coming together with a united front, as the faces of a huge community. The choir projects the message that as a transgender you are not alone, as Adam once felt he was.

It was not a smooth sailing path from Cora and Adam’s first encounter to the finished award-winning production of Adam. He explains that for a long time he heard nothing from Cora and almost “completely forgot about it.” Over a year and a half after their first meeting, Adam received a call from Cora Bissett who now had funding for the production and wanted to bring the play to life.

With no acting background or experience, Adam was originally on the outskirts of the development of the play. He would provide his story and history, and leave the rest to the director and cast. “We agreed somehow that I would stay outside it” he explains.

However, in a twist of events, Adam was cast to play himself, in his well-received stage debut. When friends encouraged Adam to audition for the role, he was sceptical and called them crazy, but as time went on Adam asked himself “what’s really going to stop you?” After a successful audition, he was given the go ahead to self-narrate his story.

Adam describes the audience reaction as overwhelming. “People have just been so kind and so understanding.” On performing in Brighton for the first time, Adam says “I’m really excited. I’ve never been to Brighton before and I’ve heard quite a lot of stuff – good stuff not bad stuff” He jokes. “I’m kind of getting addicted to this acting thing, I’m looking forward to experiencing how the atmosphere will be.”

Adam will make its English premiere at Brighton Festival at Theatre Royal Brighton, from Wed 9 May – Sat 12 May with tickets from £10.

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