British Somali women’s theater gives the ‘Side eYe’ to exclusion. With the support of a theater company founded to fight exclusion in the performing arts, members of the Somali community in Britain have rejected the parts they claim are expected of them in favor of the ones they truly want.
In 2019, civil servant and artistic director Hannah Abdule co-founded Side eYe Productions to explore chances she believed were not available to her kind.
Although she had a passion for acting in school, as an adult, she began to wonder if she could perform while wearing a headscarf and, if so, whether the stories she wanted to portray could coexist.
The characters in such stories are multifaceted and not just shaped by their Muslim faith or culture. Writing and performing, Sabrina Ali’s comedy “Dugsi Dayz” is about an Islamic school called Dugsi. It was awarded at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August and is currently touring England, starting in Sheffield in the north and ending in Bristol in the southwest.
The most recent performance by Side eYe, “Desperate Times,” which took place last week during the Somali Week celebration in east London, tells the story of a Muslim teacher who becomes entangled in a humorous web of deceit to conceal her kleptomania.
Side Eye wants to provide possibilities for Somali women without theatrical experience as part of its inclusive objective.
The play “Desperate Times” is the debut full-length work by journalist-turned-playwright Amal Abdi, and it also marks the acting debut of marketing professional Nadjma Abshir.
According to Abshir, Side eYe gives “the misfits” a creative outlet instead of forcing them to pursue the stable careers their parents, who were among the first generation of the diaspora, thought were necessary. “Our parents had more of a mentality of survival, and that is getting traditional jobs in sciences and teaching,” Abshir stated. “We’ve done what we’ve needed to do and are looking at the things that truly interest us.”