Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Asylum, Feb 20, 2008
Asylum by Kit Lazaroo
La Mama, Feb 20 to March 5, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
There is an hysterical and uncontrolled edge to Kit Lazaroo’s play, Asylum, which deals with a Chinese refugee in Australia and her desperate struggle with bureaucracy in order to avoid deportation.
The style of the script and production is abstract but it is intermittently incomprehensible and makes the central issues more confusing than illuminating. The play blurs the boundary between reality and the confused inner worlds of the characters and focuses on the lack of logic and compassion of government policy and the half-truths and misinterpretations that interfere with the treatment of refugees.
The four characters are broad caricatures, each with a pathological behavioural disorder. Yu Siying (Fanny Hanusin), a young Chinese refugee, is characterised as paranoid, violent and manipulative. Her family is persecuted in China and she contracts HIV while in Australia.
The rigid Immigration representative, Turlough Dando (Tom Considine), rejects her refugee status so, to assist her application, Siying demands a positive psychiatric assessment from Dr. Lally Black (Glynis Angell). Meanwhile Lally’s brother, Smudge (Tim Stitz), a prison guard, suffers deafness caused by trauma after shooting an escaping prisoner.
The issues regarding treatment of refugees are significant, vexed and continuing in our community. Lazaroo and director Jane Woollard present notions of our government’s lack of sympathy to refugees, their ignoring of inconvenient details in their stories and our willingness to believe misinformation.
Unfortunately these issues take second place to the awkward form and the stylistic choices that are laid over the story and characters. The absurdist elements and the introduction of puppets to depict the story of Siying’s Chinese family provide so much visual information that it becomes difficult to follow the plot.
Amanda Johnston’s set design, ingeniously constructed from stacks of filing cabinets, opens to provide tiny rooms within rooms. The puppet stage appears inside a cabinet door and Siying is secreted inside the cabinets when she hides from Immigration officers.
The four capable actors work hard and create some comic moments. However, the heightened clown-like characterisations do not permit any depth of analysis or time for reflection.
Despite this play winning the 2005 Wal Cherry Play of the Year, Asylum has some significant theatrical flaws.
By Kate Herbert