Becoming Scheherazade review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘amiable personal history’

Kamaal Hussain in Becoming Scheherazade at Summerhall. Kamaal Hussain in Becoming Scheherazade at Summerhall.
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The essence of theatre is storytelling and, for Kamaal Hussain, the tales of 1,001 Nights have long been a source of fascination. As an early manifestation of a much broader project, Becoming Scheherazade sees Hussain tell the story of the Seven Voyages of Sinbad in tandem with his own experience, growing up as a British Arab in rural Leicester in the 1980s.

Dressed in a traditional Arab thawb and ghutra, Hussain uses imaginative props to present highlights of Sinbad’s journey, whereas his own story is illustrated with family photographs.

The focus of Hussain’s personal journey is his relationship with his father and how it disintegrated when Hussain came out as gay at 16. The beating his father gave him drove him out of the house and onto the streets for a year.

The recovery process was long and hard but Hussain considers himself a survivor and the cathartic process of telling his story has fuelled an ambition to curate a contemporary collection of stories from Arabs living in the West.

It is difficult to hear Hussain’s story without being moved, but dramatically the material runs out far too quickly. As a work in progress, the project shows much promise but, as it stands, this brief show seems little more than an introduction.


Amiable if slight personal history