Oh, how mighty craic the Irish are. We’rethe soundest nation in the world. We have the gift of the gab. We’ve been through discrimination ourselves so we know how it feels. “No Blacks. No Dogs. No Irish”. We just want everyone to fit in and belong.
Sahar Ali, writes and stars, in her one-woman show, ‘Saharcasm’, bringing a harsh course of reality to this years Dublin Fringe. Dressed in simple, yet modern attire, her long hair slicked back into a ponytail, Ali discusses the difficulty that belonging entails. Ali holds a mirror up to her Irish audience. She speaks candidly about how she, as a person of colour and of the Muslim faith, is expected to always be apologetic for her existence. The pressure to express gratitude at not being looked down upon. To stand and smile as people compliment her on her English skills, her resemblance to Beyonce, and their insistence that they are racially sensitive, or as the kids say – “#woke”.
Vickey Curtis directs as Sahar jumps between various skits, maneuvering through a maze of boxes, each a different size, colour and shape. One of the highlights of the show was Ali’s impression of a preppy, female talk-show host. Her characterization hinted at the lack of representation in Irish media for Muslim women of colour. Not only this, but their opportunity to speak, or lack their off. When it comes to panel discussions on minority issues, the oppressed groups are often left outnumbered by the privileged speakers, leaving the subject to appear hysterical when they speak of their own experience with racism. Such discussions are often marred by a conflict between needing to point out that racism is prevalent in Irish society and not wanting to face the ugly side of our culture.
While Ali’s sense of humor shines throughout, it is her use of spoken word which steals the show. With an audience hooked on every word, Ali goes off on her experience about being put into a box by society. It is a moment that is utterly raw and poignant.
‘Saharcasm’ is a masterful piece of theatre. A show which forces its patrons to see the cracks in our own society, and to acknowledge our own mistakes in how we perceive others. Most importantly, Ali tells us what we, as members of a privileged race, can do to help – and that is to simply be her friend and speak out against injustice.
by Kevin Worrall