Thursday, 7 August 2003

Seeking Djira by Linda Javin, Aug 7, 2003

 Seeking Djira
by Lida Jaivin  Essential Theatre
 fortyfivedownstairs, August 7 to 17, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 7, 2003

Seeking Djira, by Linda Jaivin, is like Noel Coward  meeting Neighbours.  It is a comedy of manners that deals in a superficial way with the detention of asylum seekers.

If that sounds an odd combination, it is. This is not to say that a comedy about refugees is not a great idea. Humanity and humour can be effectively injected into even the most serious matters.

There are some laughs in the script from both the farcical story line and the silly characters. Four writers of questionable talent and literary stature ate thrown together in an Australian government subsidised writers' haven. When an Iraqi refugee seeks refuge in their cosy shelter each must decide on his or her political and personal position in the ensuing action.

The most successful element in this production is the character of Nabil,  (Adam McConvell) the desperate young man  who escaped from detention and is coincidentally, a published writer in his own country.

McConvell plays Nabil with warmth, charm and clarity. The character is the only one on stage displaying light and shade. The others are all various caricatures of ambitious, vain and ignorant pseudo-artists.

Vincent  (Paul Dawber) is a cravat-wearing poet and poseur who sees himself as a Don Juan. His ex-girlfriend, Alison  (Amanda Sandwith) is foolish, loud social climber with one published trashy novel and an incredible lack of awareness of the world or herself.

The juvenile playwright, Kennedy,  (Sophie Lampel) is the worst kind of pretentious, groovy experimental theatre writer. The climax arrives when the fourth writer, Lily  (Katrina Baylis) arrives. She is, conveniently for the narrative, the daughter of a member of the Immigration minister's staff.

The set (Peter Mumford ) reflects the farcical style in a row of doors placed on an awkward side of the space.

The direction attempts to heighten the broad comedy the actors end up using an overblown and uncomfortable style.

By Kate Herbert

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