pic no 2 rope boat

Pictured above- Refugees in a boat- Forever Tupou, Henriette Tkalec, Che Baines, Shane Millward and Simon Lee. Featured photo- Forever Tupou, Tiffany Hoy, Henriette Tkalec and Jepke Goudsmit. Production photography by Saha Jones.

For decades, the Kinetic Energy Theatre Company has been unerringly committed to championing the woes of the underdog,– the confused, accused and misused.

None so more than their current production, REFUGE.  With the depiction of asylum seekers and detainees as mere statistics and nameless numbers, we can forget that they are also fellow human beings, most of whom have endured great suffering without any criminal convictions.  REFUGE aims to undo the demonisation.

REFUGE has five story lines, all true stories based on facts and eyewitness reports and on research and practical fieldwork carried out in Sydney with the Villawood Detention Centre and the Somali Women’s Association.Founding directors of Kinetic Energy, Graham Jones and Jepke Goudsmit have woven these five strands together into a very entertaining tapestry with a superb and passionate young cast, along with dedicated student volunteers.

The direction and choreography are very tight, the opening and closing Samba percussion is invigorating and powerful.  We experience real stories of ethnic minorities who are stateless, caught in endless red tape, trapped by discrimination and tragically kept in limbo indefinitely.  We see their lives spiralling into an inescapable vortex.

Most of the real characters are given fictional names, except for Phil Glendenning – director of the Edmund Rice Centre and  president of RCA (Refugee Council of Australia) whose testimonials and visits to Villawood are performed by Jones, and Jenny  Collins-White, Children’s Rights Advocate, played by Goudsmit. Their testimonials and statistics are very important to the play.  It costs taxpayers in Australia $400,000 a year to keep just one person in an offshore processing centre whereas it costs only $40,000 if that person lives in the mainland community while being processed.

The detention dilemma is bi-partisan – the play has no political bias.  Phil Glendenning informs the audience, “I have personally met detainees who have waited six, seven years for a decision.  We started processing asylum seekers without visas back in 1992. It was the Keating Government.  They wrote the first chapter in the sad history of what is known as Mandatory Detention.”

The strong and talented cast need to be acknowledged: Janaka Biyanwila,  Che Baines,  Tiffany Hoy,  Simon Lee, Shane Millward,  Shani Moffat,  Henriette Tkalec and  Forever Tupou.  The student volunteers are: Azahlea Biyanwila (a nine year old who was a Sri-Lankan refugee and destined to be a great actress or leader), Elise Kennedy, Rose Marel, Victoria Lewis and Sacha Danswan.

REFUGE is in the process of touring schools,  supporting subjects such as:  ‘Legal Studies’, ‘Human Rights Education’ and ‘Society and Culture’.

REFUGE plays at St. Luke’s Hall, 11 Stanmore Rd, Enmore – April 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 – Fri/Sat 8pm, Sun 6.30pm.

Kinetic Energy’s April season will finish with a return run of HOME, an enriching play about urban homelessness which will run on April 22, 23 and 24.