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Asylum - Helenic Arts Theatre Marrickville (NSW)

Written by Ruth Fingret. Directed by Olga Tamara.


Performed with passion and honesty, 'Asylum' looks past the cultural, economic, and social differences dividing us and focuses on common ground; the human experience


Reviewed by Claira Prider

The Hellenic Arts Theatre, Marrickville

Until 12th May


Set in contemporary Australia, Asylum follows the story of a Lebanese man seeking refuge in Australia for his family. Ruth Fingret’s Asylum explores ideas of freedom and oppression through the lens of statelessness and highlights our nations’ obsession with placing blame on the other, instead of looking into our own backyard and addressing what’s happening under our noses. It’s not lost on the audience that we’re experiencing this challenging and reflective story on stolen land.


Presented on the round stage at The Hellenic Art Theatre, the work has no set changes, and keeps all scene shifts brief, maintaining an intense yet easy to follow pace. The set depicts three main locations: Department of Immigration and Border Protection office, police station questioning room and family home living room. Much of the dialogue sees performers interrupting and speaking over each other; we witness multiple conversations happening simultaneously to highlight the juxtaposition between how our country addresses a white man’s misdemeanour compared to that of an asylum seeker. Power dynamics play a large role in the success of the storytelling and is something that has been crafted, directed and executed brilliantly. Mehran Mortezai’s lighting design transports and informs the story, ensuring the multiple conversations weaving together are always clearly readable.


Photos by Simona Janek


Portrayed by Chris Miller, Craig is the immigration officer, father of Joshua and husband to Vicki. Craig’s home life informs much of the plot as we meet his son who’s acting out after feeling starved of parental loving connection. Miller’s performance is truthful and multifaceted, with a believable yet unique and nuanced chemistry between himself and each character; wife, son, client, colleague. Eli Saad portrays Hajir, a Lebanese man who will do anything to ensure his family’s safety, depicted through a heart wrenching and moving performance.


Levi Kenway is magnetic as the spoilt young man who blames his poor behaviour on love lacking from his childhood. Defensive yet vulnerable, he wonderfully highlights the failures of the systems in place to support and remove stigma around learning difficulties and mental health challenges. Fingret's writing and Kenway's characterisation demonstrate how much work still needs to be done to teach men to communicate feelings (with words) and reduce the fragility of their egos. Dianne Weller brings a brittle quality to her character Vicki, imbued with a sense of volatility. Her performance was unsettling and at times disconnected, demonstrating an educated understanding of how mania can manifest and impact relationships. The cast is rounded out by Emma Burns in the role of the police officer. Her commanding physicality and stillness provides stability needed to keep this intense and fast paced piece grounded.


Fingret's writing translates the brutality and unfairness one faces when seeking asylum in Australia into a personal story that is accessible and relatable. The characters are all well developed; no one is reduced to a stereotype, each character is flawed, loveable and relatable. As someone who cant comprehend what it would feel like to have to flee your country for your safety, the text makes the concept accessible to someone like me by looking past the cultural, economic, and social differences and focusing on common ground; the human experience. Directed by Olga Tamara, the work presents this powerful narrative performed by an extremely skilled and cohesive ensemble.


 

Directed by Olga Tamara

Starring Chris Miller, Eli Saad, Levi Kenway, Dianne Weller, and Emma Burns.

Written by Ruth Fingret


To read more about our show and wonderful creative team please go to https://ruthfingret.com/asylum-2/

 

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