Isma Almas: About A Buoy - Adventures In Adoption | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Isma Almas: About A Buoy - Adventures In Adoption

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

There may be some disappointed yachtsmen coming to this show in their sou’westers, for there is absolutely no reason for that baffling ‘u’ in the title, except perhaps to avoid legal action from Nick Hornby.

This is, as the subtitle more correctly describes, the story of how Isma Almas and her partner adopted a two-year-old African boy and is, therefore, ‘basically a saint’ in her tongue-in cheek words.

That’s typical of her droll, dry humour that makes this story so warm, even through its darker moments. Almas puts up no front in telling her tale with an unaffected charm that’s – appropriately enough – a bit ‘mumsy’.

Almas describes herself as the Daily Mail’s worst nightmare: a gay, Muslim, British-Pakistani Tory-hating social worker from a working-class background. ‘Not fitting in’ has been the default position for most of her life.

 Her stories of growing up Asian in racist 1970s Britain (how times have changed, she notes wryly) are eye-opening and shocking, especially one indelibly awful incident involving a teacher. These sections evoke different reactions in her audience: the white liberals are appalled, the Asians nod in sad recognition.

Such experiences inform her attitudes now she is the epitome of a middle-class Guardian reader with two biological daughters from a previous, and unsurprisingly ill-fated, heterosexual relationship. So when she and her white wife wanted to adopt, they were happy to extend the ethnic mix of their family even more.

And once they were over the trials and tribulations of the red tape and sometimes callous selection processes, that’s when the problems really started.

The ensuing story is moving, sometimes heartbreaking, as the family dynamics settle and Almas realises that her son will face a similar stigma for his skin colour as she did, even if it’s less aggressively explicit these days.

Technically, there are parts early in the show where opportunities for jokes may be missed or some structural work could help the flow. But what About A Buoy shows that if your story is strong enough, and the person relating it endearing enough, such things are relatively unimportant.

Almas is a powerful and empathetic teller of her own truth and the prism through which she filters it is undeniably a comic one, even if the laughs are sometimes tinged with bittersweet emotion. And while this tale is acutely personal, it resonates on a larger social scale too, with the fact it’s So Close to home lending an added power to her modestly compelling storytelling.

Review date: 6 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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