I’m not a Racist BUT…
Personally I don’t really care about the first four words that precede that notorious conjunction – its the ones that follow that matter.
UnAustralia is the play that explores, in some depth, those words that follow and why they do.
I was asked not to write a review, but a response and as a result what follows is personal, occasionally academic, at times critical but at all time true to the spirit in which I engaged with the material and the extent to which it reflected a very obvious abyss which I often encounter everyday.
Who or what is Australian? How Australian is an Aussie? Is it by their appearance, their food, the accent, the colour of the skin or behaviour? Or is it all of the above? Can these questions ever provide an answer or is the very complexity of such social constructions that forbid any homogenous satisfying unequivocal solution?
In the supposedly most ‘liveable city in the world’ there are occasions everyday of ugly slurs made upon ‘others’ whether it be in on a train, in a queue, waiting in a lift or even on a beach.
That’s where UnAustralia is set, at Cronulla beach in Sydney, a spot rapidly becoming renowned for past conflicts between white Australians and those of ‘Middle Eastern appearance’. The production itself is very well executed with some brilliant performances. Within a cramped space, minimal props and no wings, intimacy is at its height at La Mama especially with a 13 strong cast.
The script is excellent with the dialogue terse and vivid and the strength of the performers in playing multiple roles should certainly be applauded. Mathew Gelsumini was particularly good as Fadi, the young Lebanese who became embroiled in a fight that with some Aussie lifeguards with unforseen consequences. Not only did his rap songs have energy and rhythm but he was also articulate enough so the audience could discern the very potent speech he was giving. Cory Corbett was a strong second as his partner in crime and Antoinette Kurban (as his sister) and Adam Bales (as the local Aboriginal youth) both excelled in their roles with their love scene being one of the most touching moments of the play. Giovanni Piccolo (as cousin to Mathey) also gave a strong performance, eloquent at times more in the nuances of his looks and body language than in voice which wavered occasionally in accent.
While all performers gave solid performances, including some very humorous moments provided by Oliver Coleman and Matt Osbourne (the masterminds behind sending out rhe riot notices) there were moments of repeated cliché when the stereotyped was overly exaggerated. Some of the finer details of certain characters could have been modulated more or less, especially for the space at La Mama and would have prevented certain caricatures from folding into stereotypes. A powerful production with many questions, honest portrayals and an unwavering commitment to portray a reality that many locals experience living in this country.
Perhaps one of the most quintessential moments is when Aussie Lifeguard played by Todd Morgan asks “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi…mumble mumble..what does that mean anyway?”