THE CHOSEN HARAM
24/03/2023 - 26/03/2023
Lead Artist/Performer: Sadiq Ali
Co-devised & performed by Hauk Pattison
Produced by Turtle Key Arts
An award-winning, emotionally candid work about sexuality, faith, addiction and connection that’s also a unique and complex take on circus.
Something that is ‘Haram’ is forbidden by Islam. The Chosen Haram tells the story of two gay men and their chance meeting through a dating app, portraying the highs and lows of their relationship and the social, cultural and personal barriers they face in seeking happiness and fulfilment.
Based on Edinburgh-born artist Sadiq Ali’s experience, combined with interviews with members of the LGBTQ+ community who identify as (ex) Muslim, The Chosen Haram explores the struggles faced by many people whose upbringing contradicts their personal truths, and how this can lead to self-destructive behaviour.
Expect a heady mix of love, drugs and Islam, set to a banging soundtrack with ultra-sensual acrobatics on two Chinese poles.
★★★★★ “An astonishing fusion of circus and storytelling.” — Fest Mag
★★★★★ “A beautiful, affecting piece of physical theatre… Powerful, strong and sensual.” — The Queer Review
★★★★ “Brave, thrilling and poignant.” — The Scotsman
Winner, Innovate Award (2021) — Scottish Emerging Theatre Awards
Unforgettable Performance, Lustrum Award (2022) — Summerhall Edinburgh Fringe Awards
Q Theatre, Rangatira
Friday 24 – 26 March 2023
+ Sun 26 March, 2pm
$30 – $59
Suitable for ages 16+
Contains simulated drug use and depictions of sex
Post-show Q&A: Sat 25 March, 9.20pm
Sadiq Ali & Hauk Pattison
Moderated by Nathan Joe, Auckland Pride
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this show, the following organisations can provide help and advice:
National Helplines – need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – is here to provide support and help 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – to support people who are worried about suicide of risk of suicide 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans – if you are experiencing loneliness, depression, despair, distress or suicidal feelings, call 0800 726 666
Alcohol & Drug Helpline – call 0800 787 797 or if you’re looking for help, support or information online, visit thelevel.org.nz
OUTLine NZ – for a free and confidential support line for people who want to speak to a trained volunteer from the rainbow community, call 0800 688 5463 IMAAN LGBTQ+ (UK) – LGBTQ+ Muslim support organisation
Assistant Producer Vee Smith
Circus Movement Consultant Conor Neill
Theatre , Circus , Clown ,
1hr 5 mins (no interval)
Brave work, wonderfully conceived and performed
Review by Lexie Matheson 26th Mar 2023
Some productions defy description, and The Chosen Haram is one such show. It sits at the cusp of circus, clown, conventional theatre, and ritual and oscillates knowingly between realism. the surreal and the existential.
Haram is an Arabic term that means ‘forbidden’. This may refer to either something sacred, access to which is not allowed for people not in a state of purity or who are not initiated into the sacred knowledge, or, in direct contrast, a sinful action that is forbidden. In Islamic jurisprudence, haram is one of the five Islamic commandments that define the morality of human action forbidden by God.
If something is prohibited or forbidden in Islam, then anything that leads to it is also considered a haram act. A similar principle is that the sin of haram is not limited to the person who engages in the forbidden activity, but also extends to others who support the person in the activity.
This principle is important in our haram narrative.
Islam does not allow homosexuality since the Qur’an teaches that it is unnatural and against Allah’s will.
“And as for the two of you men who are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. And if they repent and improve, then let them be. Lo! Allah is Merciful.” Qur’an 4:16
And ‘chosen’ is past participle of choose. It must be assumed then that the forbidden act embedded in The Chosen Haram is there by choice.
The Chosen Haram is riddled with Muslim ritual juxtaposed with gay men’s practice and it’s a double privilege to be seeing this so close to the anniversary of March 15 and at the beginning of Ramadan, when Islamic practices are very much in the forefront of our minds.
There are scenes that emulate the joy of lost nights in gay clubs. They’re very good, with an authenticity that only comes from considerable familiarity.
We are told in the excellent programme that The Chosen Haram deals with themes of sexuality, faith, addiction and connection. Each of these is carefully addressed in equal measure. It may seem that these are wildly disparate elements – faith and addiction – but they come together beautifully in this outstanding piece of autobiographical theatre.
It’s the story of two gay men, Sadiq Ali and Hauk Pattison, who meet up through a dating app. The production follows the inexorable nature of their journey together, its literal highs and inevitable lows, that take us from curtain up to lights out.
Seems simple, I know. I’ve certainly seen plenty of works that track relationships, but I’ve seen nothing quite like this.
The show is produced by Turtle Key Arts from the UK and the lead artist and performer is Sadiq Ali. He is supported, and occasionally overshadowed, by the hirsute Hauk Pattison. Ali was born and raised in Edinburgh, was trained at the National Centre for Circus Arts, and has performed with Ockham’s Razor, as well as creating his own work. Actor/circus artist Pattison has appeared in productions at the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in films including Notes on a Scandal.
It’s Sadiq’s personal story though, based on his own experiences with additional material garnered from interviews with members of the LGBTQI community. The programme describes the narrative as an exploration of the personal struggles faced by many people whose upbringing contradicts their personal truths, and how this can lead to self-destructive behaviour.
Sadiq describes the show as partly his life experience positioned at the intersection of the life experience of others, both queer Muslims and ex Muslims. He says, growing up, he had the realization that his sexuality didn’t connect with what he was being taught about his faith and the world around him. This left him, as a young, queer man, confused and, as is true for many of us, filled with self-loathing and shame. To deal with the world around him he took to drugs, and his life became shrouded in addiction. This story is not uncommon, and many queer people, me included, have experienced elements of it.
This should give you a perfunctory idea of the narrative arc that The Chosen Haram follows, albeit slight, because the production is much more than can be encapsulated in a single sentence.
Sadiq’s character meets another young man, and they engage in a delicious courtship dance, getting to know one another in a ‘will he, might he, could I be so lucky’ sort of way. It’s not rich in text, in fact, there’s not much talking at all, but the imagery that’s created through the two male bodies in space, extraordinary lighting and sound, and the glorious use of the two poles to tell the story is quite simply outstanding.
Much and all as I would like to tell you how it all plays out, why so many evocative images remain with me twenty-four hours later, and how the extraordinarily exciting physical manifestations speak so harshly in their silence, I’m not going to because virtually every moment of the 70 minutes is a spoiler.
The lovely box office manager I speak with – it’s Q Theatre and the staff are always great – sums up her experience, articulating exactly how I feel: it’s like quality dance and I simply have no vocabulary to describe it.
The set is functional and consists of two poles stabilized to the sides of the stage and a leather couch. No, it’s not pole dancing with a side of queer, but pure, often upside down and sideways, circus with exceptional physicality. Both men are remarkable, both individually and when working together.
But I get ahead of myself.
Suffice to say that imagery resonates in the mind as the performance plays out in real time, from the Sistine Chapel to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to Tony Fomison to Ecce Homo in all its variants and everything in between. I’m sure Michelangelo’s David, currently controversial, is in there too. It’s a cornucopia of delight and a litany of anguish but riveting for the entire seventy minutes.
On opening night, Sadiq makes an unexpected curtain speech, and I’m rather glad he does because otherwise we would probably still be sitting in the theatre applauding. Yes, this Auckland audience goes crazy over this piece of work. It also gives him the opportunity to tell us how grateful he is to the people of Auckland who have pitched in and supported the production when costumes and other production paraphernalia were lost in transit. I’m glad he tells us this because it is in no way apparent that there has been anything untoward in the preparation of this wonderful arts festival show.
It’s incredibly brave work, wonderfully conceived and performed. I love it. My family loves it. Queer stories don’t always have to have happy endings. It’s not a prerequisite because our lives are often still far from fairy tales. We have the Brian Tamaki’s and the Posy Parker’s to regularly screw things up, but we cope by making theatre works about them and recording their hideousness in perpetuity.
Did I mention that the almost full house on opening night applauds and applauds and will not let the artists leave the stage?
Yes, I did, I know I did, and I’m repeating myself simply to reinforce that this is a show that you must see. It’s an extraordinary tour de force for the two men and, while it’s emotionally harrowing and there are moments when hope seems not to spring eternal, there is joy in the physicality and the trust the artists have in each other that transcends everything else. It’s not here for long, buy a ticket and see it immediately.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer