The Insider by Leila Aboulela

Contact Us

The Wire on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3. 2 November 2013
Inspired by The Outsider, Aboulela's play took the two Arab characters from the Camus source-text and reimagined their lives in the postcolonial era.  To do so, she took as another inspiration Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, in which the so-called "mad woman in the attic" is given a voice and a personality.
Fatima (Souad Faress) is a prostitute who is both a sinner - in societal terms - and a seeker after something more spiritual, beyond the corporeal world.  Whether she found it or not is anyone's guess: perhaps the constraints of her society prevented her from doing so.  Jonquil Panting's production created a world which was at once liberated - from colonial rule - yet highly patriarchal and conservative, in which women were expected to conform to certain social roles.  Fatima could never fit that mould, and was thus treated as something of a pariah.  We were left to reflect on whether there was any real difference between the colonial and patriarchal hegemonies.
With this in mind, we were also left to reflect on the nature of Fatima's "voice."  In societal terms, she was perpetually silenced, both intellectually (as a prostitute, she had no real rights) and physically (the play included one sequence where she was abused).  On the other hand, she was given a voice to communicate to the listeners, as well as discovering an inner voice for herself.  Perhaps we were meant to interpret the term "voice" polysemically; it represented different things to different people.
Supported by a cast including Sirine Saba, Dhaffer L'Abidine and Stephen Hogan, The Insider was a powerful piece which at least offered the possibilities for alternative strategies of communicating and thinking.