The play ‘Amphibian’. Pic Thomas McCammon

The Joan hosts Sydney exclusive of AMPHIBIAN the cutting edge theatre experience for 12+ and families.

The script written by Duncan Graham for Amphibian is based upon real-life testimonies of refugees that are superbly crafted by the Windmill Theatre Company.  

The audience is taken from Afghanistan across land and sea in rickety boats on a long journey with the perils of snake-head smugglers and many traumatic sojourns in detention before the safe-haven of Adelaide is finally reached.

Hussan – the refugee develops an unlikely rapport and friendship with his class-mate Chloe.  They are thrust into each other’s company in the school quad, banished by the loud shrewish voice of their headmistress booming from the loudspeaker “You were both the last two in the room.”  She is chastising and shaming Hussein and Chloe for the alleged ‘theft’ of her wallet while they were feeding the class axolotl.

Hussan shrugs her off and is pre-occupied by telling Chloe about  giving the axolotl a dose of iodine to turn it into a salamander!

Chloe turns to more serious issues by engaging Hussan  in fantasies and stories of where they inhabit their inner world as  they both try to grasp their different external experiences.  Chloe reveals her high stakes of risk if she creates issues with her parents.  Whereas, Hussan has no parents and reveals his almost inconsolably difficult and solitary journey to South Australia – to be reunited with his only relative – his uncle. 

Hassan was constantly interviewed under duress, by an Australian Immigration Official.  She insensitively ‘pumped’ him for his ‘story’ in a sterile interview room with limp fan overhead – with the bland interview greatly enlarged on a video screen .  He kept telling the truth and she doubted him.  In Hassan’s frustrated words “I kept telling the truth and she didn’t believe me.”  He had told his  faceless bureaucrat his harrowing story in every traumatic detail – shaken and crying and still she persisted on him repeating his testimony over and over oblivious to his emotional state, and the fact that he had no support.

 His father was a translator for the ADF – the Haddaji (foreign soldiers).  His native dialect was Farsi and his English was fluent.  After the fall of Kabul the Taliban branded him an infidel so he went into hiding.  Hassan was interrogated by a Taliban militia at gunpoint to reveal his father’s location or be shot.  Hussan’s father was caught in a choiceless choice  but by saving his son he surrended to the Taliban to a terrible fate.

By vivid contrast – Katie Perry makes an impromptu but satirical appearance introduced by way of Hussan’s friend Haddad’s back stage screen shot. 

Hassan escaped to embark on a roller-coaster of betrayal and suffering – a three year journey to Australia.  The audience must be mindful that Hassan was alone and only twelve years old when he left Afghanistan then arrived in Adelaide three years later (aged 15) and found himself outside his high school Quadrangle – with Chloe – both accused of theft.

This wonderfully visual play has a diaphanous dance sequence – the risque moves of a chameleon Brazilian tree hopper!

 A ‘solitary solar system’ flashes on a neon tiara above a sparkling emerald long skirt studded with  sequins.  This vibrant scene was an absolute stand-out for the designer Meg Wilson and the director Sasha Zahra.

The two cultural script consultants Muzafar Ali and Elyas Alavi produced culturally sensitive and historically accurate refugee testimonies and placed them in a provocative theatrical context.

Julia Vosnakis played a focussed and convincing Chloe – a high school student with her special empathy with Hussan that gradually  revealed  his perilous three year  journey from Kabul to Adelaide.

Rami Saaid played  Hussan – he was  powerful portrayal of Hussan  and Rami was born to a Lebanese – Syrian mother and a Kurdish-Turkmani father. 

And who took the wallet from the desk in the same room as the axolotl?

The axolotl knows the truth from its tank!

AMPHIBIAN’ is a compelling drama for young people 12+  and their families. Played at the Joan – Penrith, 25 Feb 10 am & 12 pm.  26 Feb 10 am & 12 pm.

Featured image : Julia Vosnakis and Rami Saaid in ‘Amphibian’ Pic Thomas McCammon