Understanding the unforgivable
Napier Street Theatre, South Melbourne, August 9-September 2
Previewed by Bronwen Beechey
At 10am on May 9, 1989, a man entered a kindergarten in Hawthorn, a middle-class Melbourne suburb. He took four children hostage, doused them with petrol and threatened to set them alight unless a compensation claim arising from his wife's caesarean operation was heard immediately. Seven hours later the man surrendered to police. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, where he remains today.
Senol Mat was as appalled as anybody else by the incident. But the crime also fascinated the Turkish born actor, who has appeared in a number of Melbourne Workers Theatre productions, most recently the acclaimed Home of a Stranger. The result has been Mat's first play writing project, Mad Turk.
"I wanted to know why this man did such an unforgivable act", Mat told Green Left. "I do not condone what he did, but I wanted to use this ugly event to point out the problems that exist for migrants in society."
Mad Turk presents the events that led up to the crime, depicting the underlying prejudices that prevented a Turkish couple from being heard, and drove them to take disastrous measures in their quest for justice. The couple are played by Mat and Helen Trenos (currently appearing in the Blue Heelers TV series).
"The play examines difficulties for people without English who are trying to deal with doctors and lawyers — something that can be hard enough for English speaking people", Trenos said. "It also challenges the stereotypes of Muslim women as submissive and passive. The relationship between the two characters is equal and she is as much a driving force in their search for justice as he is."
The play incorporates traditional Turkish rituals and songs, performed by singer Elbide Elhan, allowing a rare insight into this rich cultural heritage.