Skin Deep (Covid Monologues Vol 3)

Hamza Adam Rafique
Elysium Theatre Company
YouTube

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Skin Deep

Skin Deep is a thoughtful examination of cultural identity and the confusion which arises when trying to determine your place in the community.

Adil (Shaban Dar) takes a relaxed attitude to his Pakistani background and Muslim faith. His willingness to drink alcohol gives him something in common with fellow student Laura to whom he is attracted. But otherwise, the lovers have many differences—Laura is academically inclined, ambitious and has a clear plan of what she wants to achieve. She is also attracted to Asian men regarding their willingness to wear beards as a sign of masculinity. Adil is something of a slacker with only vague ideas of his future plans and is politically indifferent—Laura takes offence on his behalf about the Government’s attitude to Muslims.

Lockdown forces Adil to return to his parents’ home and he finds comfort in the familiarity of the rituals of Ramadan while continuing to be sceptical about the spiritual aspects. Yet Adil resents how people expect him to behave as a Muslim and worries Laura may have a low opinion of his parents. A showdown is inevitable.

Shaban Dar presents Adil as an affable if bemused person: something of a homebody and a bit too eager to take the easy option. Adil has tended to cherry pick at his faith, taking those parts he likes and ignoring others and Dar shows he is clearly discomfited at having to examine his feelings about subjects which he had previously taken for granted. The possibility of a social class divide between the lovers is addressed obliquely—Laura’s confidence and that she can afford to reside in London suggests a privileged background.

While Hamza Adam Rafique’s script has elements of a comedy of embarrassment—Laura becoming more politically active as a Muslim than Adil—in the main it is a satisfying examination of the complexity of a multicultural society. The script suggests an almost Kafkaesque society in which even the bloke delivering a pizza feels entitled to criticise Adil’s neutral stance. None of the characters can be said to be truly in the wrong. Laura may be pushy, but she has a point—Adil’s willingness to retreat to the parental home may reflect a lack of maturity.

Skin Deep is refreshingly complex but engaging.

Reviewer: David Cunningham