This year of Fringe World is a little different from others, for obvious reasons. Closed borders mean Fringe 2021 boasts more local talent than any other edition. And while that might mean a few international and interstate favourites are missing from this year’s line-up, it also means that you might be a little more likely to see a local gem, like the entertaining and poignant Car Rides With Ahmed.
Car Rides features the story of Sahra (Sabrina Hafid), a disability support worker whose four years of conversations with young Ahmed (Jason Huimanu) provide the impetus for this quirky show. In her opening monologue, Hafid explains that she wrote the show herself, basing it on her own experiences; this detail made what was to come all the more engaging.
Attention to detail is a hallmark of this show, which is divided into ‘episodes’. The first of these, slightly awkward but well-meaning, reveals Ahmed’s love of anime, which was embedded throughout the performance. To bond with Ahmed, Sahra commits to watching his favourite shows, and the play humorously incorporates Sahra’s open critiques of anime and Ahmed’s attempts to refute themOvertime, the humorous debates evolve to represent their strengthening bond, with Ahmed tailoring his suggestions to Sahra’s personal likes and dislikes. Other discoveries, such as their shared Muslim heritage, are explored as points of connections for two otherwise very different characters. Naruto-inspired music, creative puppetry, nuanced performances and even dance all contribute to an authentic and entertaining representation of Sahra and Ahmed’s growing relationship.
Artfully immersed between the jazzy instrumentals and depiction of a burgeoning relationship were the difficulties Ahmed faces at school and Sahra’s growing frustration at the bureaucracy that restricts the support he needs.
The performances of both actors are highlights of this show and are skilfully supported by the set, lighting and sound design. Ten-year-old Huimanu’s performance is supplemented by voiceovers from the real-life Ahmed throughout the play. This intimate touch deepens the show’s unique representation of the challenges involved in the process of diagnosing of difference, and seeking support for that difference. The show’s final episode (unnamed, as final anime episodes have no names) brings the audience to 2019, concluding with a sense of hope and promise.
Car Rides is a unique must-see for audiences of any age who enjoy feel-good stories of friendship and the overcoming of barriers. In an ingenious interplay of dramatic styles and elements, two impressive young performers navigate an entertaining and meaningful tale.
It is a story of human connection, and how this can be one of the most important factors in development and growth.
As Hafid told me after the show, Car Rides With Ahmed is “about two very different people learning to become friends.” For her, and for the audience, “that’s truly the most special part of it all…”
Five Pelicans out of five!
Car Rides With Ahmed runs until January 23 at Girls School.
Words by Isabella Suleski
Image Courtesy Fringe World