She's Not Special
Toronto Fringe Next Stage Theatre Festival
An ironically dubious title
That’s an understatement of grand proportion as Fatuma Adar offers something very special.
The press release states: “She’s Not Special combines musical theatre and comedic storytelling to explore the pressures of Black Excellence. As a Black Muslim Woman (a triple threat!), creator Fatuma Adar is on a mission to free you from the clutches of exceptionalism and teach you how to relish in the joys of mediocrity.”
I was pleased to have been part of this mission.
Fatuma Adar delivers a beautifully fascinating and intellectually engaging performance of a person who, at the end of the production, tells us she has “learned to be excellent in her own kind of way without dissecting everything she’s ever done.” At times, her self-deprecating humour about her mediocrity (which made me laugh out loud several times) never once veered into anything of an uncomfortable nature. ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ scene with co-director Graham Isador was a perfect example. Loved that moment! There are other moments that you must experience yourself.
Her comic timing is impeccable. Adar inherently just knows and senses when to pause or when to look at the camera. It was these looks she gave towards the camera after she explained something that made me laugh out loud. Explaining or contextualizing something Adar sets up would spoil the humour. You MUST experience and hear it yourself.
The homage Adar pays to the musical theatre songs she has written are freshly clever and broadly imaginative. Her tunes are nothing gimmicky at all. It’s the kind of material akin to Gerard Alessandrini’s ‘Forbidden Broadway’ series, and I hope Adar gets the opportunity to perform ‘She’s Not Special’ live somewhere soon where audiences can see, hear, and appreciate her stellar work (some of which she claimed from being stoned. I don’t know if there’s truth to that or not, but it made me laugh again.)
A very simple set design with Musical Director Adrian Hogan finely and quietly underscoring while never overpowering the moment. Roya DelSol’s very professional videography and editing moved the production’s pace without seeming rushed at all. Christopher Ross-Ewart’s crisply allowed me to hear the lyrics of the songs along with Ms. Adar’s monologue. Joe Pagnan’s lighting design sharply focused my attention where it was needed on the action of the story.
I’d like to comment that, along with Fatuma, Graham Isador also co-directed ‘She’s Not Special’. I remember when I was teaching several years ago and was involved in a co-curricular activity where two students were involved in the Sears’ Drama Festival. Both students along with their performances were credited as directors. The adjudicator commented later that it is difficult for people to perform and to direct a play at the same time as there should always be someone watching to ensure a creative vision is continuously maintained.
That’s where Isador came in and it was a smart choice he was there to ensure the vision’s integrity was justly maintained throughout. For me, it was obvious both Adar and Isador deeply cared about this play’s message.
And just what is this play’s message?
I’m not going to spoil it here as Adar tells us at the end of the production. For me, this message is timely and one that I certainly needed to hear in our world of upheaval and change.
Final Comments: A gem of a production. This is one you must not miss.
Running time: approximately 60 minutes
HomeMadeIt Productions and Pressgang in association with Pandemic Theatre present ‘She’s Not Special’
Creator and Performer: Fatuma Adar
Director: Graham Isador and Fatuma Adar
Music Supervisor: Ben Elliott
Videographer: Roya DelSol
Set/Lighting Designer: Joe Pagnan
Musical Director: Adrian Hogan
Sound Designer: Christopher Ross-Ewart
Stage Manager: Lucy McPhee
Production Manager: Deb Lim