Al Qamareya ("The Moongate")
Directed by Mishline Jammal
TAQA Theatre with Al Sharek Music
8 p.m., May 10 & 11, 5 p.m. May 12
Sydney St Theatre Space, cnr Railway Pde and Sydney St, Erskineville
Reviewed by Tracy Sorensen
The lack of cultural opportunities for the Arabic community in Australia is illustrated by the fact that top-price tickets to a performance by a Lebanese movie star soon to appear at Sydney's Enmore Theatre are being sold for $150: performances are so rare that audiences are prepared to pay almost any price for them.
The creation of the theatre piece Al Qamareya ("The Moongate"), in association with Al Sharek Music, is an attempt to redress that.
Publicist Huw Williams told Green Left that, while the piece does not refer directly to the Gulf War, its focus on themes such as prejudice and dislocation were relevant to Arab-Australians' recent experiences.
Fashioned with music, soundscapes and poetry, the performance is explicitly about affirming the Arab spirit. Director Mishline Jammal of TAQA Theatre describes it as a "non-linear series of stories within stories, unfolding with dreamlike imagery".
"The war on the other side of the world was felt deeply here because for some Australians that country on the other side of the world is the land of their heritage", he says.
"I'm interested in what it's like to have one foot on both shores, the experience of being torn in half when you're pulled by your past in one direction and your future in the other."
According to Huw Williams, great care has been taken to make this Arabic/English performance completely accessible to speakers of either tongue:
"TAQA is bilingual theatre, combining an interest in exploring new forms of theatrical language with a love of spoken Arabic: the poetry of the language and its many dialects, and its resonances in Australian life.
"This production is home grown, built from the ground up, involving actors who are recent arrivals, community workers, teachers and students; drawing on their own experiences, these actors can act with authenticity."
After the Sydney performances, TAQA Theatre projects taking the show to other cities. It will be a feature of the upcoming Adelaide Fringe Festival. The project is sponsored by the Australia Council, the Ethnic Communities Council, PACT Theatre and Shopfront Theatre. n