As is so often the case with the children of immigrants, Zara presents different versions of herself to the world. There’s the person she is when she’s with her parents, the studious daughter who is about to marry a good Muslim man, and then there’s the independent young woman who enjoys hanging out with her friends, likes a drink and is flirting with veganism.
Winner of Theatre503’s International Award, Out of Sorts is a compassionate, generous and well observed piece of writing that accurately captures all the small tug-of-wars that occur over religion, language and food. Writer Danusia Samal articulates Zara’s feelings of guilt and her conflicting, entangled impulses to conform and rebel, embrace and reject her heritage.
Tanuja Amarasuriya’s production brings out the play’s warmth and humour, while Rebecca Wood’s sage green set – a kitchen and living room that doubles as Zara’s family home and the flat she shares with her moneyed white flatmate Alice (Emma Denly) – enhances the sense of division, but also the overlap between her different selves.
As Zara, Nalan Burgess earths the piece emotionally; while some of the other performances could be tighter, there are two superb turns from Myriam Acharki and Oznur Cifci as Zara’s kind, softly-spoken mother Layla and combative poetry-writing kid sister Fatima.
The play has arguably one too many plot threads – an eating disorder, an ill-advised kiss – and there are times when the material teeters towards didacticism, but Samal’s skill as a writer transcends these problems. All of the characters are permitted depth and nuance, all of the relationships are shaded, no one is beyond redemption, and a sense of tenderness permeates the whole piece.