Thursday, 16 May 2002

The Waiting Room, Melbourne Workers Theatre, May 15, 2002

The Waiting Room  by Melbourne Workers Theatre   
 Trades Hall, May 15 until June 1, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Let me declare my hand here. I am a critic of our federal government's policies on refugees.

There are many issues to be discussed and many opinions on these policies that need to be addressed. Theatre can be a vehicle for social change. It may also be a conduit for views not seen or heard in the media or in any other public arena.

Melbourne Workers Theatre (MWT) produces work that represents the underclass the helpless and vulnerable in our community. Their production, Who's Afraid of the Working Class? was complex, intelligent, well-written and directed social commentary.

Political theatre can also be as biased as the speakers it attacks. MWT's latest creation, The Waiting Room, is unfortunately one of the latter. The show preaches to the converted who abhor the treatment of refugees. However, its simplistic approach to the issues may only alienate those who they wish to educate.

There are scenes that work well individually as representations of parts of the refugee predicament. It is a series of short scenes in a contemporary performance style with a background of evocative music (Liberty Kerr). video imagery by Rolando Ramos  is provocative, sophisticated and beautifully wrought.

There are several emotional scenes inter-cut with parodies, movement or speeches by immigrants.

The opening is thematically related to the body of the play but it has no stylistic relationship. In fact it feels like an 80's community theatre role play.

The material is devised by the director (Richard Lagarto with the actors Wahibi Moussa , Steve Mouzakis,  Valerie Berry  and Kerr.   Actors work hard in the show and create some interesting moments and Lagarto moves scenes along effectively.

There is merit in this production but it needs a playwright to pull ideas together. There is no cohesion or subtlety. The content is important but it is so trivialised and simplified that is difficult to discern a rational argument. The fragmented scenes do not allow any depth.

Politicians, guards and long term resident Australians are represented as racist, abusive and thuggish. The images of Ku Klux Klan and Nazi are cartoon-like and ineffective. It is simplistic and inappropriate to describe Australia  as Whites Only.

This show has good intentions does not do justice to the complexity of the issues.

By Kate Herbert

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