Lifted begins sparsely, with a young man, Anwar (played by Ikram Gilani), sitting in a folding chair on a barren stage, as he is interrogated by unseen policemen. Anwar is a funny, easy-going marijuana dealer looking to make a quick buck. He’s also a Muslim Scotsman, and that might be the reason he’s here. Anwar must answer vague questions about his relationship with Moody, a Kuwaiti friend, to whom he occasionally sold drugs.
The structure of Triad Pictures’ solo show is simple; Anwar has two monologues which run together seamlessly, one serving as his statement to the police, the other as a more candid internal speech.
Visually, there isn’t much to Lifted except Gilani’s animated gestures and reactions; the strength of the piece is in the script by Sara Shaarawi and Henry Bell, and in Gilani’s visceral performance. Although the piece explores weighty topics such as immigration law, racism, and national identity, Lifted is often quite humorous. The character built by Shaarawi and Bell is quick-witted, unique and deeply developed. The truth about his relationship to Moody gradually unfolds through a well-paced tale, charting the cheeky adventures of twentysomething men.
This is unmistakably Gilani’s show; he’s captivating and dynamic throughout, playing up Anwar’s unassuming nature and tendency towards humor in tense situations. His character is deep-rooted yet winsome as he unravels in the face of prejudiced authority. With Gilani as its beating heart, Lifted is one of the most relevant and moving pieces I’ve seen so far at the fringe.
Lifted is playing at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall until August 27.