Adelaide Theatre Guide Review: A gripping piece of theatre that begs to be seen and heard

Tony Busch

Adelaide Theatre Guide

June 11, 2016

This is a tale of conflict and survival told principally through the stories of two couples during the 2008 Gaza war.

Jomana (Helen Sawires) is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who meets American born Palestinian doctor, Rami, (Osamah Sami) who arrives on board one of small boats that breaks the Israeli blockade.

Ali (Reece Vella) and Lama (Emina Ashman) are residents of Gaza. He loves her but she’s unsure whether to marry him or not.

The play traces the development of these two relationships amid the death and destruction that is everyday life in Gaza.

Samah Sabawi has created a potent narrative that brims with raw examples of the reality of living under a hostile authority. She explores relationships and family values in a place where people fight to retain some sense of normality amid the daily death toll; where “funerals and weddings have become part of daily life”.   Read more 

 

Allow us to introduce ourselves! The Tales of a City by the Sea 2016 creative team

We come from diverse backgrounds including Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Malta, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, Bengal,  India, Chile and the UK.  We have people of various faiths including the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.  Our play is a celebration of the power of inclusivity and a testimony to breaking down cultural and racial barriers!

Writer  Samah Sabawi

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Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian Australian Canadian playwright, commentator and poet. Her plays Cries From The Land and Three Wishes had successful runs in Canada; Tales Of A City By The Sea enjoyed a sold-out season at La Mama in 2014 and an Arabic premiere at Alrowwad’s Cultural Theater Society in Palestine, and was selected for the 2016 VCE Drama Playlist. Sabawi’s poems feature in WITH OUR EYES WIDE OPEN (West End Press 2014), GAZA UNSILENCED (Just World Books 2015) and I REMEMBER MY NAME (Novum Publishing 2016). She is co-editor of  DOUBLE EXPOSURE: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas (Playwrights Canada Press 2016).

Original Direction Lech Mackiewicz

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Lech Mackiewicz is a Polish director, playwright, and actor. He formed Auto Da Fe Theatre Company in Sydney in 1987. He specialises in creating intercultural collaborative performance, having directed theatre in Poland, Japan, China, Korea, and Australia. Lech’s directing credits include: Felliniana (Belvoir St Theatre); King Lear (Playbox Theatre); Kafka Tanczy (Teatr Zydowski); Beckett in Circles (Suzuki Company of Toga); An Oak Tree (Teatr Wegierki); The Hour Before My Brother Dies (Teatr Jaracza); and Everyman and the Pole Dancers (Metanoia Theatre). He is a graduate of the National Academy of Theatrical Arts (PWST) in Cracow, and the University of Technology Sydney.

2016 Remount Direction Wahibe Moussa 

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Wahibe Moussa is an award-winning performance maker, and writer. In 2007, Wahibe received the Green Room Award for her role as “Mahala” in Theatre @ Risk’s production of Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul. In 2014 she was one of ten dramaturgy interns at Melbourne Theatre Company, a Playwriting Australia Fellowship initiative. Wahibe’s practice is informed by her own experiences as a migrant child, her collaborations with Refugee Artists, and a commitment to understanding Indigenous performance and story making practices. This is Wahibe’s directorial debut.

Producer and Set Design Lara Week

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Lara Week is a designer for performance and creative producer. Her design credits include: NaGL: Not a Good Look (Metanoia Theatre), Between Heaven and Her (La Mama Theatre), and The Conference of the Birds (Centre for Cultural Partnerships). Since 2011, she has been associate producer for Tribal Soul Arts, producing decolonial arts programs and performances in Africa, Europe, and Australia. She is dedicated to creating spaces where people with different skills and perspectives can share ideas and produce work together.

Lighting Design Shane Grant

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Shane Grant has been Audio Visual Technician for St Kevin’s College for the past nine years. Previously, he was Production Manager with Strange Fruit and Technical Manager at Gasworks Theatre. Shane is an accomplished lighting designer having worked extensively with companies like Ranters Theatre, The Torch Project, NYID, La Mama and many others. Shane has a BA Dramatic Arts (Production) VCA from 1994. He sits on the Green Room Awards Association Theatre Companies Panel. Shane is currently an artistic director at Metanoia Theatre and the Technical Manager of the Mechanics Institute theatre in Brunswick.

Sound Design Khaled Sabsabi

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Khaled Sabsabi works across art mediums, geographical borders and cultures to create immersive and engaging media based experiences. He is a socially-engaged artist who specialises in multimedia and site-specific installations that often involve people on the margins of society. Khaled has worked in detention centres, schools, prisons, refugee camps, settlements, hospitals and youth centres, in the Australian and broader international context. Khaled makes work that is in continual transfer from the physical to the philosophical, to interconnect the interrelatedness and cycles of life.

Sound Mixer Max Schollar-Root

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From his roots in The Australian Theatre for Young People and the NSW Performing Arts Unit State Drama Ensemble, Max Schollar-Root found his passion in musical performance and composition while studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He works as a band leader with Ungus Ungus Ungus, a theatrical and multi-modal performance project combining live music, technology, and dance, presenting nationally at large-scale festivals. As a Registered Music Therapist trained at The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music he runs early childhood music programs and works with adults with intellectual disabilities.

Production/Stage Manager Hayley Fox

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Hayley Fox gained a Bachelor of Creative Industries majoring in Theatre at QUT (2005) and a Master of Arts in Writing at Swinburne University (2010). Her most recent stage management credits include: Werther and The Spanish Hour with the Lyric Opera of Melbourne; The Road to Woodstock and An Evening with Sarah Vaughan for Neil Cole; Diva Power Regional Tour for Arts Events Australia; Wuthering Heights with the Australian Shakespeare Company; and In Between Two at the Sydney Festival for Performance4a.

Assistant Stage Manager James Crafti

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James Crafti is excited to be working on Tales of a City by the Sea as it combines two of his passions: theatre and Palestine. On the former James has directed a variety of plays such as Mutha, The Deserters, Rope, Creationism and Seven Jewish Children. He was also an assistant director on Yet to Ascertain the Nature of the Crime. James has also been an organiser with Campaign Against Israeli Apartheid, Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Jews Against Israeli Apartheid.

Producer Daniel Clarke

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Daniel Clarke has worked in Australia, the UK and US as a theatre director, producer and artistic director. He is has recently taken on the role of Programmer, Performing Arts at Arts Centre Melbourne, after five fulfilling years as CEO and Creative Producer of Theatre Works, St Kilda. Daniel was the Artistic Director of Feast in 2007 and 2008, winning the prestigious Arts SA Ruby Award for Community Impact. He has also worked for Leicester Haymarket Theatre Company as Creative Producer/Associate Artist and was awarded the 2015 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award Facilitators Prize.

Helana Sawires – Jomana

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From a large, creative Egyptian family, Helana Sawires has always lived within the realm of the arts. Early on Helana developed a love for percussion, very much influenced by her father. Since graduating from Newtown High School of the Performing Arts (2011), Helana’s projects include: Short and Sweet Theatre Festival; Banana Boy (upcoming short); and W.O.W Casula Kid’s Festival (storyteller/drumming workshop). Helana landed her first major film role in 2015 in Ali’s Wedding (Matchbox Pictures). She was accepted into the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in NYC (2014), completing a Chekhov Intensive Course, which further influenced her unique expression across all forms of art.

Osamah Sami – Rami

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Osamah Sami is a failed cricketer and a struggling Muslim. His memoir Good Muslim Boy was Highly Commended at the Victorian Premiere’s Literary Awards. He also co-wrote Ali’s Wedding, Australia’s first Muslim Rom-Com, and co-created the Web Series Two Refugees and a Blonde. Lead roles in films include Ali’s Wedding, Journey, 10 Terrorists! and Saved. TV roles include: Kick, East West 101, Rush, Sea Patrol, City Homicide and Jack Irish. He has performed at Belvoir St, MTC, La Mama and a dozen independent houses. His role as “Amor” in MTC’s I Call My Brothers earned him a Green Room nomination for Best Lead Actor.

Emina Ashman – Lama

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Emina is a Malaysian born actor, dancer and theatre-maker. Before relocating to Australia (2012), her theatre credits in Kuala Lumpur include Beasts and Beauties, Lysistrata and Fragments. As a 2014 VCA graduate, her credits include Agamemnon, The Three Sisters, The Little Prince and Plus Sign Attached (with Living Positive Victoria). Emina played “Julie Bishop” in Lucky Country (Melbourne Fringe 2014). Last year, she read the role of “Christine” in Michele Lee’s Moths for MTC. She also played “Antonia D’Agostino” in the sell-out season of Adam Cass’s Bock Kills Her Father (La Mama, Melbourne Fringe 2015). She has recently completed a diploma in creative writing, specialising in writing for performance and poetry.

Reece Vella – Ali

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Reece Vella graduated from The Actors College of Theatre and Television in Sydney (2010) and has been acting professionally for the past six years. Check out his Star now if you are into name-dropping. He harbours a passion for new, eccentric and challenging work. Since moving to Melbourne, Reece’s stage credits include: Everyman and The Pole Dancers; Tales of a City by the Sea; Between Heaven and Her; and most recently Night Sings Its Songs. Reece is elated and moved that a remount of Tales of a City by the Sea has taken life, confirming his everlasting hope in stories of humanity.

Alex Pinder – Abu Ahmed

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Alex Pinder works as an actor and theatre director. Recent credits at La Mama include performing in Waiting For Godot (as “Lucky”) and In the Middle of the Night and Other Stories, and directing Buzo’s Norm and Ahmed. Other work includes directing a reading of In The Day I left Home by Raahma N Kalsie, for MTC NEON 2015 and MTC Cybec 2016, playing “Page” in The Merry Wives of Windsor at 45 Downstairs and Perth’s Fortune Theatre, and “Howard” in The Dead Twin.

Rebecca Morton – Samira

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Rebecca Morton has been singing and acting all around Australia for longer than she cares to admit, from opera to music theatre to Shakespeare and Noel Coward with state theatre companies. She writes and tours highly portable, one act music theatre shows, and recently joined Alchemy 7, a group of artists who create a fusion of sculpture and song. She is also working with a new company, RAPt, which connects people through theatre. She is absolutely delighted and proud to be part of this very exciting and important play.

Cara Whitehouse – Multiple Roles

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Classically trained, Cara Whitehouse has played roles in children’s puppetry to the Greeks, working in Melbourne and Singapore. Recent work includes Tales of a City by the Sea (La Mama 2014), Remember M with innātum Theatre, The Woman in the Window, and “Elektra” in The Oresteia. Cara’s film work includes multiple shorts with a web series in development. A certified Fitzmaurice Voicework teacher, Cara’s training encompasses Conservatory Actor training at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore, Knight-Thompson speech work (NYC) and continued training at the Howard Fine Acting Studio.

Aseel Tayah – Singer

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Aseel Tayah is a creative director, art producer and installation artist. She has been part of number of theatre productions at the Malthouse, Platform, La Mama, Polyglot and Metanoia Theatres, together with her own art works that have been displayed prominently in Palestine and Australia. She travels around the world to discover, photograph and be inspired by people’s cultures and histories. She creates interactive experiences that invite audiences to participate through her design of space, and the presence of her body and voice.

Ubaldino Mantelli – Multiple Roles

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Ubaldino was in the 2014 Melbourne premiere of Tales of a City by the Sea at La Mama. He’s played major theatrical roles in the Geelong region, including performing for the National Trust and in the ensemble-devised Daylight Savings, led by James Pratt. Ubaldino trained under Kerreen Ely-Harper, Stephen Costan, Jenny Lovell, Danielle Carter, Karen Davitt and Nicky Fearn in the VCA Acting Studio 12. He’s been a producer, presenter and performer on community radio. In 2016, Ubaldino can be seen in James Burke’s short film, Sick Home.

Poster Design and Cover Art by Ahmad Sabra and Aya El-Zinati. 

To buy tickets:

Melbourne: The show will be staged at the La Mama Courthouse theatre between May 11 – May 29th. La Mama Theatre is nationally and internationally acknowledged as a crucible for cutting edge, contemporary theatre since 1967. The Courthouse is located on 349 Drummond St, Carlton. Click here to purchase tickets for Melbourne shows.

Adelaide: The show will be staged at The Bakehouse Theatre June 8th to June 18th – June 18th. The Bakehouse is a charming, intimate live theatre at 255 Angas Street, near the east end (Hutt Street). Click here to purchase tickets for Adelaide shows.

Sydney: The show will run at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre on 1 Powerhouse Road, Casula. There will only be two performances scheduled for August 3rd. Click here to purchase tickets for Sydney shows.

Click here to make a donation 

The dream and the reality of staging Palestine

Excerpt from interview:

“The recent total devastation of Gaza made putting on this play all the more important for us in the West Bank and in Melbourne. What happened in Gaza a couple of months ago is something that is far worst than ever before.   It was an attempt at the destruction of life in a way that Palestinians haven’t experienced since 1948, since the original ethnic cleansing of Palestine began….We were casting just toward the end of that and it was surreal and sad and for me it was heartbreaking because I really wanted to bring this brand of art to Gaza…it was my love letter to Gaza in a way…I went there two years ago and we staged a reading and I vowed that the play will premier in Gaza before anywhere else but I can see that this dream will have to be put on hold for now…”

Click on video below to hear the full interview.

Buy Tickets for Melbourne Performances

The Age: Palestinian Play Tales of a city by the Sea thwarted by real-life violence

By Annabel Ross

There is some bitter irony in the fact that the plan to premiere a Palestinian play in three different cities was thwarted by the very war it speaks of. Palestinian-Australian writer Samah Sabawi wanted Tales of the City and the Sea to debut in Australia and the Palestinian territories simultaneously. “The plan was that it would open in the West Bank, Gaza and Melbourne at the same time and in a way connect the Palestinians in the West Bank to the Palestinians in Gaza,” she says. “Unfortunately, the time we started casting and putting together the production team was when Gaza was under heavy bombardment.” That was in July, at the height of the recent conflict. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/palestinian-play-tales-of-the-city-and-the-sea-thwarted-by-reallife-violence-20141028-11cjn0.html#ixzz3HPpWg1ia

Only in Palestine: how to make teargas canisters bloom

I try to post inspirational stories in my blog, but I have to say of all the stories I’ve posted this one takes hope to a whole new level.  The Guardian published a photo gallery of a garden in the West Bank Village of Bilin (yes where Five Broken Cameras was filmed) where ‘residents have come up with a novel use for the teargas canisters left over from clashes with Israeli soldiers during the weekly protest against the West Bank separation barrier’.   View gallery

WATCHING THE LONELY CROWD: Festival of Video Art and Performance, Ramallah

 By Shuraq Harb

30 September 2013 

IBRAAZ

The Lonely Crowd is the third edition of the /si:n/ Festival of Video Art and Performance, which was initiated in 2009 by the French-German Cultural Centre, A.M. Qattan Foundation, and Les Instants Video Numeriques et Poetiques. /si:n/ is the first Palestinian festival dedicated to video art and performance, and adapts new curatorial strategies and more refined institutional partnerships and cooperation. In this respect, The Lonely Crowd marked an important development in the festival’s short history – this year signalled a more defined identity, in part due to a fewer number of partnering institutions: those mentioned above, with the addition of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre. Two main local curators from within the partnering institutions were also appointed: the Sakakini Centre’s director, Lara Khaldi, and Reem Shilleh from the Qattan’s Culture and Art Program.

The Lonely Crowd proposed to question the failure of the moving image in relation to its makers and spectators, shedding light on issues of isolation, loneliness and alienation produced by different modes of viewing. As a departure from previous editions, nine new local artworks were commissioned and installed in various public spaces throughout the city of Ramallah, which helped anchor the festival both physically and conceptually. This was coupled with Instants Video, Celebration of 50 years of video arts, a travelling screening program and performance, curated by Marc Mercier from Instants Video Numeriques et Poetiques. Additionally, the Goethe Institut orchestrated Kamal Aljarfari’s The Credits of My Next Movie, a lecture in Ramallah, and a workshop at Dar Al-Kalima in Bethlehem around Aljafari’s project Cinematic Occupation – a reclamation research that traces Israeli and American films shot in Jaffa between the 1960s and today, where the original Palestinian residents only accidently appear in the fringes of the frame.
Although there were considerable efforts by the organizers to downscale the festival into a more digestible program,The Lonely Crowd still felt overwhelming for a small city like Ramallah; there were two to three events per day (ranging in thematic relevance and quality) over a two-week period in the month of Ramadan, an unofficial holiday centered around family gatherings and outings. As such, the festival opened at night after iftar (the break of the fast), with a curators’ guided tour of the video installations, strategically installed at various popular downtown locations. The attending crowd aroused the curiosity of onlookers, creating an interesting moment in which the very act of looking at the artworks produced something to be looked at. This sense was underscored in Noor Abu Arafeh’s single channel black-and-white silent video, Directions for Intimate Solutions or Seemingly More Intimate(2013), installed at the Mirage Coffeeshop, which explored issues of voyeurism. Abu Arafeh’s work had us walk through crowds of young men playing cards and smoking shisha, producing new opportunities of voyeurism for them, too. If only the video was set up so that the ‘intruding visitors’ could also peek back at the café crowds.

Samar Haddad King’s Playground (2013), a four channel video installation and live performance, created a more confrontational viewing experience at the abandoned Harb House. The work was composed of live performances simulating torture by loud music (a method used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay), a screening of ESPN’S film The Two Escobars (2010), a video game play station, and a video leaked on Wikileaks of a drone attack on a neighborhood in Iraq. Yet, as these distinct and intense components competed with one another for attention, sadly it was the tale of drug lords and football (The Two Escobars) that overshadowed the beautiful intensity and subtleties of the live torture simulation performances, arguably the strongest part of the artwork.

The Lonely Crowd curators' tour, /si:n/ festival of video art and performance, 2013.
The Lonely Crowd curators’ tour, /si:n/ festival of video art and performance, 2013.
Photo by Goethe-Institut/ Karam Ali, July 2013.

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, Yazan Khalili’s single channel video The Blindness of Love (2013) set up an introspective and melancholic experience as it flickered through overexposed landscapess, interrupted by a fragmented text that asked: ‘how does one regard the pain of the self?’

Offering a historiography of the medium’s pioneering artists since its invention by Nam June Paik in 1963, Marc Mercier’s Instants Video, Celebration of 50 years of video arts,made up of three screening programs, had the potential to open up a much-needed reflection and discussion on the medium. Instead, a looping program of 5 videos was installed on a TV monitor in the entrance hallway of the French-German Centre. They were impossible to watch by virtue of their location, which undermined the historical status of the works. Most importantly, there was no attempt to engage or connect the videos to the history of the medium in Palestine, which was especially tragic since Palestinian Video Art: Constellation of the Moving Image, edited by Bashir Makhoul, had just been published by the Palestinian Art Court, Al Hoash.

The Lonely Crowd curators' tour, /si:n/ festival of video art and performance, 2013.
The Lonely Crowd curators’ tour, /si:n/ festival of video art and performance, 2013.
Photo by Goethe-Institut/ Karam Ali, July 2013.

The festival closed with Mercier’s final curatorial act: visiting artists Rochus Aust’s performance BUS-LINE-PALESTINE (2013), a walk acting as a metaphorical bus ride through the city, described by the artists’ statement as‘A bus line from anywhere to everywhere. A transnational bus line. A bus line devoid of religion. A gender-free bus line. A non-political bus line. A non-violent bus line. For all and everyone.’

Leading the crowd with the sounds of a blowing horn that also playfully projected blackandwhite illustrations, the passengers were then asked to let go of various sentiments such as ‘hate’, ‘judgment’ and ‘prejudice’, which many found naive, condescending, preachy and assuming. Yet there was something magical about the sounds of the horn and the image it projected on the building walls, the streets, the pavement, and the people it encountered on the street, who were happy to be part of something, even if they did not fully understand it.

As the crowd unresistingly followed the bus rhetoric, others from the street began to wonder about the spectacle, which artist Khaled Hourani explained to them simply as ‘an artistic protest.’ Hourani’s seemingly objective description resonated. Why didn’t we resist or challenge the performance? Instead, viewers passively – and skeptically – followed it, and all the while a question loomed over the participation of the audience.  Were we all part of an intervention in public space, or were we merely a lonely crowd in Palestine?

For more about the author Shuruq Harb or to read more about the festival go to IBRAAZ

Radio New Zealand: Dr Rand Hazou on Palestinian theatre and ‘beautiful resistance’

The importance of theatre for refugees and asylum seekers is demonstrated by Handala, an Alrowwad Theatre production at Aida Refugee camp in Bethlehem, and the inspiration behind the concept of ‘Beautiful Resistance’ with Dr Rand Hazou, Lecturer in Theatre with the Expressive Arts programme at Massey University.  Listen to interview.