So this happened to me the other night and similar conversations have happened consistently over the five years I’ve been reviewing theatre. I’m sick of it.
A friendly old guy and his wife come up to me during the interval having noticed my notepad. “I say, “ says the guy, “who are you reviewing for?” Now, they don’t usually say “I say” but this bloke literally began the conversation with the words “I say.”
I tell him The Arts Desk. He’s sure he’s heard of it, his wife clearly has. She tells him they have a subscription. He nods.
They want to know if I review theatre often. I do.
They want to know what I’ve seen lately. I tell them.
They’ve recently seen something Asian/Muslim themed and they want to tell me about it. They do.
I haven’t seen it but I’m sure they’re right about it being “terribly clichéd.” Everything’s going swimmingly.
Then they want to know if I live locally. I live in South London.
Oh, that’s quite a way away, they say. It is.
It’s rare, the guy says, to see a Muslim girl (I’m 27 but whatever) out at the theatre and even more rare to see her ON HER OWN.
This is uninteresting. Why are they telling me this? Why would it interest me to know how many Muslim girls they see at the theatre, it’s not like they’ve spotted a pine marten in the wild. And I assume they mean hijab-wearing Muslim girls, because how else would you know if someone’s a Muslim? Also, WHO CARES?
I go to the theatre a lot, I tell them. My friends aren’t always free in the evenings.
Yes, they say, but it’s “rare all the same.”
“I’m sure you see much more theatre than I do,” says the husband “but it’s still odd Namia.”
It’s NAIMA!! And I don’t care if your observation is rare, it’s boring. It’s also akin to saying “we don’t get your kind around here often” which makes me think, as well-meaning – or oblivious – as people who say this stuff might be, I want them to know that no one needs to to hear that you regard their presence as an anomaly. Think it all you want. Hell, right now it’s probably true. But no one needs to to hear that. Ever.