The Chosen Haram – Manipulate Festival

Devised & Performed by Sadiq Ali

Co-devised & Performed by Hauk Pattison

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Forbidden. Sinful. Haram.

Different worlds cultivate similar restrictions and ideals, garbed in diverse cultures and histories. And challenging the status of faith, sexuality, and connection – The Chosen Haram aids in opening the 2022 season of Manipulate Festival with its premiere launch. A story of two queer men, their chance encounter and blossom into a relationship charters the unexpected setbacks and highs they face – both societal and cultural, in coming to terms with their fulfilment and coming to grips with the concept of satisfaction.  

Transcending the stagnation of solid ground, this revelation in Queer-Storytelling lifts the narrative into circus feats – not solely out of awe but incorporating height and level in a method of semiotic technique. From initial meeting via a dating app, to the trials and tribulations of coming to terms with one another’s outlooks, The Chosen Haram infuses a contemporary love story with one of the personal accounts from those who identify as (ex) Muslim members from the LGBTQ+ community. Sadiq Ali’s first feature piece lays bare the contradictions of upbringing with the self-destructive behaviours which can manifest.

And yes, the athletic feats and capabilities are extraordinary, transforming the supposed limitations of space into strengths. Incorporating two Chinese poles into the foundations, The Chosen Haram acts as a reminder of the power of the human body & mind. The trajectory and acrobatic techniques carry with them a prowess in communicating not only the strength we possess – but the weaknesses we share, and the restrictions imposed.

Advancing the method of performance, costume and prop usage all play a central part in enhancing the piece; choking plastic sheets which enshroud Ali, and the various restrictive and sexualised costume changes by Cleo McCabe all aid in forming a larger picture and offering insight into Hauk Pattison’s performance.

With a depth in the understanding and complexity sexual nature and connection play with one another, there is accessibility towards those of different faiths and ideals on how they share intimacy; no imprudences are drawn, and no single ‘answer’ is offered in this journey. The connection established by Ali and Pattison is understandably at the centre of the performance – the achieved synergy between the pair is mesmeric, not only from a physical perspective but in their ability to non-verbally communicate and conjure intense emotion.

Analogy communicates differently to everyone, and while Ali achieves a streamlined approach that furthers the traditional linear narrative and adapts familiar aspects into the more symbolic territory, there are moments where the pacing fails to align with audiences. Club sequences, scored by Guy Veale and Kester Hynds serve a methodical purpose of the indulgence destruction of addiction but creep a touch into extended, and the hectic nature muddies what is communicated in moments.

Intimate, The Chosen Haram benefits from a live in-person audience to share and emulate one another’s energies. And in drawing attention to a familiar blend of cultural and restrictive attitudes towards sexuality and self-establishment, Ali’s aerial and circus structure transcends usual constraints and obliterates boundaries those within LGBTQ+ communities encounter where faith collides with happiness.  

For further information on The Chosen Haram, please visit the Manipulate Festival website here.

Image credit: Glen McCarty

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