DR AHMED GETS HITCHED! Big fat gay wedding

The doctor will see you now! After a sell-out debut at Fringe World 2021, medical doctor, comedian and cabaret artist Dr Ahmed Kazmi invites us to a sparkling cross-cultural wedding extravaganza with his show Dr Ahmed Gets Hitched! Going down at Heath Ledger Theatre from Friday, January 14, to Sunday, January 16, Dr Ahmed will take audiences on on the rollercoaster of a journey that is his love life through cabaret and comedy. KWANWOO HAN caught up with Dr Ahmed Kazmi to learn more about his marriage to his Greek prince charming and his experience being an LGBT+ man of colour.

Congrats on bringing Dr Ahmed Gets Hitched back to Fringe World this year! How does it feel to return?

Thank you so much! It feels wonderful. This time I am getting to perform in the beautiful Heath Ledger Theatre, which is something of a career highlight for me!

Let’s start with something simple but juicy. Who is the lucky man and how did you meet?

Ha! His name is Maximos, he is from Athens, Greece, he is a jewellery designer by trade but he is currently working as a manager in retail. We met off a very famous app! I tell him all the time he is lucky too.

You’re Pakistani and your husband is Greek, two very different cultures. What was the learning curve like? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome?

You would think they are very different right? But they aren’t! What I’ve seen about Greek culture through my husband is that education is very important, as is family time, good food and babies… this is pretty similar to the culture I was raised with! Luckily I was embraced by his family and he was embraced by mine (well some of of my family!), plus we’ve lived only in the UK and Australia together, so we haven’t had much acclimatising to do. I have been to Greece several times, but I haven’t managed to take him to Pakistan yet. I am also trying to learn Greek!

You’ll be performing cabaret at the show alongside comedy. Why not just stick with comedy? And where did you learn cabaret in the first place?

I’ve always loved to sing and dance, but marketing a singing dancing doctor is a lot harder than marketing a comedy one. I therefore made a name for myself in standup, but deep down I’m a storyteller and I use all the tools available to tell my stories, be they jokes, songs or movement.

You’re a man of colour, part of the LGBT+ community, and in an interracial marriage, which I see as a beautiful thing. How do you feel about representing all of this and the pressure behind it?

This is a complex one. Although my story is my own, I think there are elements that are relatable to many. I also think many people of colour, culturally and linguistically diverse people and LGBT+ people’s stories and experiences are often underrepresented in the mainstream media and arts, and being part of a movement to change this, makes me feel privileged and proud.

I never presumed to speak for others, but I had so many gay and trans people come up to me after the show and tell me how much my performance meant to them. One Sikh man told me it helped him come out and helped his family understand him, a young gay Vietnamese woman said after a show, that it was the first time she has felt represented on stage and embraced me, it reduced me to tears.

It was something I was not expecting and had a deep impact on me and another reason why I wanted to bring back the piece for a second season in Perth. Just as having the wedding took a certain degree of courage, so did performing the show, but I am very glad I did, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

As part of its nature, culture changes alongside societal values and views, the LGBT+ community especially in the recent decade. Have you noticed this shift, and how has it affected your relationships and performances?

I see a lot of positive change. In most developed countries now legislation has moved towards equality and protection of LGBT+ peoples. TV and film are increasingly representing sexually and gender diverse characters. There is a generation growing up in Australia when being gay is really no different to being straight and I am glad my children will grow up in this world. We are trying to even update our language to reflect an inclusive and fair society. We are still in transition and there’s a long way to go, but I see change for sure.

It hasn’t changed much in my life though I think. Many gay and queer artists have found solace in the performing arts, in creating bigger than life personas and being present in the public eye, there is catharsis and authenticity in this and any stigma or persecution is worth it. I decided fairly young that I was going to be authentic, whatever the cost and I’ve marched to that beat my whole life.

I have one short life on this earth, I want to live as I choose and achieve what I want, I can’t do this by using someone else’s yardstick, or by allowing them to make me believe I am an abomination. I am grateful though I have always lived in a time and society where my sexuality wasn’t criminal. I often think of those who came before to make this possible and I am thankful to them, I honour them in my show also.

You did a powerful thing last year, choosing to perform the show despite your mother passing away just days before. Where did that strength come from?

I think it came from her if I am honest. It is genuinely what she would have wanted. Growing up we were never allowed to miss school, never allowed to miss work. I remember hearing her tell my sister once “if you don’t feel well, you go back upstairs and but on extra make up and come downstairs and get to work” – that always stuck with me.

Also, in periods of mourning, the mind does better when it’s kept busy. I think this is where a lot of funeral rites originate from, they sort of allow us to go into autopilot. My mother died in the UK, due to COVID there was no chance for me to go and bury her. Doing the shows allowed me to run on autopilot – it was like going to work. I dedicated the work to her. She never came to my wedding, and never accepted my relationship, I wonder sometimes if she ever regretted her decision.

It’s obvious to me that you have a supportive network who loves you. How would you describe this, if you can, and how essential was it to your growth?

Yes and now, I come from quite a conservative family and sadly even some of my nuclear family boycotted my wedding and have never actually accepted this aspect of my life. This has been very hard. I have been in therapy for many years to process this, I don’t think you fully heal from this and I think most LGBT+ people will have similar stories.

I am fortunate though that some of my nuclear and extended family have been more loving and supportive. I have had to learn to look elsewhere to have my needs met though, this is where the family we choose comes in, our partners, our friends, our therapists and of course above all, ourselves. I have no resentment for the rejection I experienced from members of my family though, I am just glad I managed to extricate myself from it and move on relatively unbruised, or at least highly functioning. There are many in our LGBT+ community who do not.

Last year’s show was tamer than what will be coming. Is there something we should be expecting or looking forward to? Or something you’re looking forward to?

(Laughs) Mostly I am just hoping to bring my best self to the show this year, but I do bust out a few more dance moves this time too.

And to finish up on a lighter note. Is there anything about your husband you nitpick about? Horrible handwriting maybe? Remember, he’ll probably be reading this.

(Laughs) He is pretty good really I can’t complain. He did trick me though. After being together a few months he looked a bit older and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I then realised he had been dyeing his beard! He said there was no need to dye it anymore now that we were together! I still laugh thinking about this, is this cat fishing?

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