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Meurants Lane - La Mama (VIC)

 Written and Directed by Christapor Yaacoubian. Produced by Limelight Department Theatre.


Meurants Lane hits close to home with a script that is a brilliant debut and one to watch for future restaging

 

Reviewed by Rachael Vassallo

La Mamma Theatre, Melbourne

Dates: May 21 to June 2

 

War does interesting things to your mind, for some, it can be a violent, erratic, and impromptu fuse that can blow at any time. Meurants Lane opened with a brilliant use of suspense, introducing audiences to two brothers, (Michael Todorvic and Sorab Kaikobad) whilst awaiting another (Yerasimos Raftos) who had neglected to attend his father’s funeral.

 

What followed next was an accurate depiction of the dynamics of many Middle Eastern and Southern European families, particularly how the patriarch and the matriarch hold them together. Anyone who falls into the category of ‘Wog’, migrants and their descendants who hailed from the Middle East and Southern Europe will recognise the term used as a racial slur before being reclaimed as a term of pride and endearment.


...[an] intrinsic ability to capture both the culture and struggles of Middle Eastern migrants in a way that is both nostalgic and respectful

 

This play feels close to home, I only remember that our parents and grandparents came here for a better life. They spoiled us rotten and we took it for granted. The emphasis of the death of the brothers’ father and the desire to be a better father to their own children emphasises this. So does the distinction between the relationship between the three characters particularly, and their behaviour after the death of their father and how they choose to remember him. What follow is the brothers’ responses to this sudden loss. We are introduced to how the three brothers responded to this side of their father, and the damage it did to them and their fragile relationships with each other. 

 

Writer and director, Christapor Yaacoubian stages Meurants Lane in an unmoving set - the brothers’ living room in their Meurants Lane apartment - with most scenes taking place in this realm. A set of three chairs transforms the space into the waiting room of the hospital. The living room was a homely yet erratic space, typical of the living rooms of many young people. The use of sentimental and personal items, especially the stereo which was used during the performance enhanced this very cosy escape. The costume and makeup created instantly recognisable and distinguished characters that brilliantly capture the fashions of the ‘90s ethnic migrant demographic and era, clearly showcasing a creative with knowledge in both.

 

All three actors gave fantastic performances throughout. Their physicality and voice showed a clear understanding and honour of the culture and subject matter. This performance is reflective of obvious lived experience and understanding of the Lebanese-Armenian diaspora.

 

Yaacoubian’s script is worthy of brilliant praise. His intrinsic ability to capture both the culture and struggles of Middle Eastern migrants in a way that is both nostalgic and respectful whilst exploring the faults and challenges within. This makes Meurants Lane not one to miss. We are beginning to see a renaissance of Wog culture being depicted on the screen and stage, with the cultural contributions of Middle Eastern and Southern Europeans being represented accurately. As someone whose ancestry hails from this region, it is important that our stories are being reclaimed and told by us. Our stories, culture and struggles have been misunderstood, mocked, and treated as merely stereotypical comedic relief. Growing up and witnessing the racism directed at first and second generation migrants, Yaacoubian captures beautifully the sense of aspiration that came from arriving in Australia and juxtaposes it with the limited opportunities that exist as a result of prejudice and marginalisation.


...a brilliant debut...Yaacoubian’s script is worthy of praise

 

The production itself would have greatly benefitted from live music, particularly in the final sequences. The music scenes that took place in the living room were naturally played through the brothers’ stereo, though one beautiful moment that took place in the hospital would have been utterly elevated through live performance. Another issue was that the detailed storyline became very complicated as the performance progressed. Whilst the multifaceted plot was effective, particularly before the interval, it became too incoherent and left many unanswered questions.

 

Meurants Lane is most certainly worth a watch at La Mama. It is particularly worthwhile if you would resonate with a story of second-generation migrants finding their footing. I truly found it a performance that captured many of my personal experiences and made me feel at home. It is one that is both relevant to those who experienced these circumstances and those who wanted to better understand how their friends and parents grew up. It is a brilliant debut and most certainly a script I can see being revived in the future.


 

Meurants Lane

Dates: May 21 - Jun 2

Times: Tue, Wed: 6.30pm

Thurs, Fri, Sat: 7.30pm

Sun: 4pm

Running time: 90 mins (inc. interval)

Venue: La Mama HQ 205 Faraday St, Carlton VIC 3053


Content Warning: Suicide, smoking of herbal cigarettes

Directed by Christapor Yaacoubian

Produced by Limelight Department Theatre

Illustrated by Olga Makarchukova

 

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