Posts Tagged ‘aleea monsour

18
Feb
20

The Neighbourhood

 

The Neighbourhood

La Boite Theatre Company & Multicultural Australia

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

February 8 – 29 2020

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Exuberant and revelatory new work gives life to seven marginalised voices who share their experiences growing up in multicultural Australia as either First Nation individuals, first generation migrants, or refugees.

 

Simplistic and minimal in staging, this is however an irreducibly complex ensemble piece in which the sum of its parts is a sociocultural hybrid, a third space of enunciation in which significantly damaging racial tropes are challenged and dispensed with. With human dignity, its hope is to demand recognition, dismantle assumptions of white Australian suburbs and to forge ahead with powerfully transcendent themes of community, home and belonging.

 

Brilliant and hopeful, The Neighbourhood is an olive branch of unapologetic repatriation and optimism written and co-created by the actors themselves. With its finger on the pulse, it’s an upbeat series of overlapping monologues delving into the personal struggles of the players tied together with light movement and incidental live music played by two of its performers, Dr Matt Hsu and Cievash Arean.

 

After surviving parts of war-ravaged Syria, Amer Thabet, moved to Australia in 2019. While funny, bold and resilient, his sense of humour cannot always protect him from being silently destroyed by the memories of family and friends left behind there. With devastating precision, he narrates and enacts a survival story juxtaposed now against his pedestrian life as a newly settled Australian citizen.

 

From Uganda, Amisa Nandaula describes the causal discrimination she endures growing up in rural Rockhampton. As a school girl, she would rub honey in her eyes and exfoliate her skin to lighten its blackness. She heartbreakingly shares a story of how her best friend in a misguided compliment tells her that if she were white she would be beautiful. Amisa talks proudly of her mother’s inspiration of leaving their home in Uganda to start her own business and raise the family in another country.

 

 

Aurora Liddle-Christie is Jamaican and an Australian First National. In a mature austerity beyond her years, she reflects on growing up in the shadow of her father’s loving dysfunction, and of proudly being the loudest family on the street. She follows a literal ancestral path of elders to Alice Springs, exploring a spiritual family legacy, a deeper belonging to a community of First Australians inhabiting these now stolen lands of Australia.

 

Then there is Cievash who was imprisoned in Iran for political insurrection. He later fled to Australia 31 years ago as a refugee. He recounts a story of a doomed man he tried to help hide from authorities, the man’s execution, and the sense he now tries to make of his life in the aftermath of his exile. He is a musician and with his many instruments, the horrors of his torture and the homesickness for his homeland find a new language within the phrasing of his playing.

 

Dr Matt Hsu is also a musician and he reflects on the racial hypocrisies within his own community, the subtle racisms of growing up in the west, the frustrating career expectations of his family and realised dreams of pursuing music and art. He is talented and entertains us with the accordion, the double bass, the clarinet and a percussive ethnic drum.

 

 

Naavi Karan is transgender and non-binary from India. Now living in Brisbane, Naavi opines on the deep faith and tradition of family and oppressive schoolyard bullying. Bejewelled and adorned in traditional golden headdresses and colourful dresses, Naavi dances, and transforms truth and poetry, exploring a beautiful and diverse performative non-conformity.

 

Born during the Iran-Iraq war, Nima Doostkhah grew up witnessing the bombing of his city Esfahan. He is tortured by the memory of being lost as a young child at a mass funeral ceremony and being grasped and held by wailing women, their cries still disturbing to him years later as a young man.

 

And while he grew up watching Rage, listening to hip hop whilst sitting on the back steps composing rhymes, he tries to embrace modernity, and hopes to cloak his ‘otherness’ within its inconspicuous shroud, that carefree nonchalance of his fashionably sensitive generation. Desperate to forge an individual identity, he also just wants what everyone else wants; to be cool and to fit in.

 

 

Spontaneous and innovative, The Neighbourhood has a deliberate an arresting sense of naïve charm. It’s hopeful and while preachy and developing, it feels like the culmination of a highly workshopped experiment which has come together as a well-balanced and authentic mouthpiece for the silent voices in our community.

 

You can see the potential for the work to evolve and strengthen over time. It is a flexible platform to expound a growing movement of social justice, refugeeism and islamophobia all writhing together in the mess of an inevitably globalising newtopia. The Neighbourhood, decries so diligently the pressure on migrants to assimilate, and how the plurality of different ways of life should be encouraged and celebrated. 

 

Co-Created by Todd MacDonald, Aleea Monsour, and Ari Palani with Lighting Design by Ben HughesSound Design Brady Watkins and Set & Costume by Adam Gardnir.