OMAR + DAWN
OMAR + DAWN, Green Door Theatre, Apocalypse Theatre at bAKEHOUSE Theatre KXT Kings Cross, 12-27 July 2019. Photography by Robert Catto: above - Maggie Blinco; below - Antony Makhlouf, Blinco, Mansoor Noor, Lex Marinos; below again - Maggie Blinco
Omar and Ahmed are young, Lebanese-Australian and gay. Their sexuality has caused their families to disown them. Omar (Antony Makhlouf) is in deep trouble, whether or not he can admit it. He’s teetering on the edge of criminality, scraping a living of sorts turning tricks in the shadows of a city bridge with his best mate Ahmed (Mansoor Noor), whose misery has curdled into nihilism.
Their anger is virtually combustible, their cynicism painful to witness and James Elazzi’s first play opens with Omar furiously unable to accept the smallest kindness from Dawn (Maggie Blinco). She is an elderly white woman who determinedly lives alone. She takes in strays in an attempt to assuage the pain of having lost both her son and husband. Not that she’s a sap or sentimental do-gooder: her response to Omar is as hard as a hurled brick.
This odd couple is at first characterised by miscommunication and misunderstanding – the social road blocks familiar to most. Eventually however, Dawn begins to wear down Omar’s resistance by effing and blinding as much as he does and also feeding him bowls of steaming stew to relieve his physical hunger. Nevertheless, his psyche continues to starve and for that he needs a different kind of sustenance.
Dawn’s younger brother (Lex Marinos) owns a garage. Against his better judgement he succumbs to her pleas that he take on Omar and teach him to become a mechanic. It’s not straightforward, Omar is required to turn up on time and be polite. As far as Omar is concerned, this fucken old git can get fucked. Yet both persist and one begins to prevail.
Not surprisingly, James Elazzi has a lot to say in this play and its 75-80 minutes overflow with ideas. Director Dino Dimitriadis draws vibrant, well defined performances from the four actors and also maintains a cool and measured pace. It hoses down the play’s enthusiastic excesses and brings the themes and characters into sharper focus.
The result is a brave and welcome voice for the Australian stage. Elazzi delivers stories and characters drawn from a perspective almost unique in traditionally white-dominated contemporary theatre. The production also introduces to the inner city audience two fine actors in Antony Makhlouf and Mansoor Noor for whom this will surely be a launch pad.
The two are fortunate to be supported by the solid intelligence and experience of Lex Marinos in the tricky balancing act of righteous hard man and dodgy moraliser. Finally, anchoring the quartet with extraordinary energy and elan, Maggie Blinco is a commanding presence even as she is often a serene, wordless focal point; and at 86, she makes light work of playing an 80-year-old!
The focus and timing are abetted by lighting from Benjamin Brockman that offers by turn domestic warmth or sharp, unsympathetic pools and ominous shadow when the young men are casing the married men who are their customers.
Designer Aleisa Jelbart also contributes by turning the KXT’s traverse into a gravel-floored urban tract occupied by a kitchen table with a fridge, cupboard and microwave sketching in Dawn’s kitchen. And wrapped around this oppositional space is Ben Pierpoint’s soundscape of alternating menace and sweetness.
Altogether, Omar + Dawn is an exciting production in that it showcases new and mature talent and delivers an enthralling, illuminating drama of unrelenting toughness and humanity. Recommended without reservation.
NB: performance attended was a pre-opening night preview.