It’s the quality of story presented here, or perhaps the resonance it holds that truly defines this performance. Set amidst the conflict in Gaza, a world that for many Australians would seem far away, but through focusing on the individual stories, it somehow brings these two counter realties within three degrees of separation, driving home a message of our universal need for love, safety and home.
As you enter the performance space, cast mingled with the audience, from the outset, this performance has a certain sense of energy surrounding it. It’s a sweeping narrative, as dense lyrically as it realistically paints a bleak and uncompromising picture of this stark world in which the performance is set against. It surrounds the story of Jomana, played by Helana Sawires and her lover Rami played by Osamah Sami, the two share an onstage connection that feels genuine, subsequently you felt for them as their relationship is put to the test, both by external forces and by their own personal affronts. Scenes where the two characters communicate long distance via Skype as the bombs rain down, a fine example. The rest of the cast are equally as impressive and together they propel the story towards final scenes that leave a sense of open resolution, the war has not ended here, it continues, as do the stories central to the work. Samah Sabawi wrote this work, and her connection to the subject is unquestionable.
Lighting is subtle yet beautiful, designed by Shane Grant it works within limitations creating further layers to an already rich performance. Similarly set designer Lara Week, has created a simple yet effective backdrop that see’s performers at times shift props and sets, taking us collectively into the next scene, a device that here at in Tales of a City by the Sea, helps to create a dynamic rhythm and through line for the work as a whole.
Khaled Sabsabi has done wonders with the sound design that underpins this performance, the sound of crashing waves, folds inwardly, to then be taken over by explosions and ensuing silence. The resulting effect is powerful creating further resonance, and realism.
Work such as this, independently funded, solely focused on telling the story at hand despite what restrictions this may present, are invaluable, deserving perhaps more than other works currently being staged in Melbourne. Too often in this country companies focus on our own, at times trivial issues, seemingly turning a blind eye on what the rest of the world must rise against, and face as part of their everyday existence. Here in Tales of a City by the Sea, we see the exact opposite; a work that truthfully portrays the more human side of the images of war in other parts of the world we in Australia are made familiar through media’s intervention.
Tales of a City by the Sea is currently playing at La Mama until May 29th, you can book your tickets here