The First: an immersive, one-woman show at Sharjah Performing Arts Academy

The First: an immersive, one-woman show at Sharjah Performing Arts Academy

Published On - Oct 22, 2021

Performance review by Nadiah Tejani

A Home Away From Home

Fears and dreams. An unfathomable duo of intangible forces that create the crazy, reckless, and unprecedented events of our lives.

The coexistence of these forces was explored exquisitely in Sharjah Performing Arts Academy’s production of The First. Written by Hassan Abdulrazzak and directed by Matt Ball, the show explores the life of a young expat in the UAE battling the fear of deportation alongside her lifelong dream of being the UAE’s first female astronaut. Stage managed and video designed by SPAA’s own third-year student cohort, the plot was explored in an immersive theatre experience situated at the gas station where the main character, Ash, works.

Ash at work         The First_SPAA

Members of the audience are seated in a car, and an intimate relationship is created with Ash’s character as she delves into her life story, touching on topics such as the working lifestyle in the UAE, childhood dreams, and life as an expat. But what really connected me to her character was the struggle of growing up in a country you could never call your own. Personally, being a Kenyan who has never lived in Kenya, Ash’s struggle of not feeling ‘Indian enough’ resonated within me and the impostor syndrome many long-time expats have in relation to their native countries.

The plight of a third culture kid (TCK) is when children are raised in a culture different from their parents or their native countries. This could mean various differences from things like religion to food and language. Indeed, Ash mentions not feeling “like a real Indian”; a common notion with many in the same scenario. The aforementioned’s fear of being deported only builds on the feeling of being untrue to one’s own heritage. The possibility that at any one point a rejected visa could force you to have to uproot your entire life is a huge source of stress, and can often affect the other topic that was accurately touched upon in the show – dreams.

A country like the UAE is ideal for those with big dreams. Advancing discoveries in space sciences, artificial intelligence, and environmental welfare are just a few of the fields the country is beginning to occupy. Through the use of mesmerizing video projection, The First’s audience is transported into space alongside Ash. The passion she feels towards becoming an astronaut is almost tangible… and indeed her resilience, and how she won’t let the fear of deportation put a halt to her dreams.

The conclusion of the show left me pondering with a feeling of satisfaction. Ash’s story profoundly expresses how we all create our own homes. Our native roots, the cultural nuances of where we live or have lived, and who we are as individuals all blend together with our fears and dreams to create the homes within ourselves.

And isn’t that where we are always going to reside?