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Review: Assimilate at Northcote Town Hall

By Megan Taylor Mitchell

Assimilate describes itself as ‘storytelling at its rawest’ and it was not selling itself short.

Assimilate is a half-hour experimental theatrical performance created by Daisy Nduta and also features Tamara Bailey, Anyuop Dau and Naomi Sepiso. The show examines what it means to live in a society that erases your existence and suppresses cultural significance, and the four women weave their own personal experience with anecdotes from others into an immersive piece.

What really made the show such a joy to experience was each of the women’s willingness to share parts of themselves and their stories with the audience. The show was a smorgasbord of different forms of expression, including movement, singing, visual and audio storytelling. The women clearly have a lovely rapport with one another, and created some visually striking stage pictures.

Audience interaction was used deliberately to different effect; intentionally challenging on some occasions and warm and inviting on others. The end of the show finished with them inviting the audience into the ‘home’ that they created on stage, handing out tea and homemade sweets, with Nduta facilitating a two-way chat. It fostered a casualness and warmth that I found charming; however if you’re a fan of the fourth wall, this show might be a lot to take in.

The women didn’t shy away from experimenting with different mediums in the show, some working better than others; there was some movement and drawn-out set rearrangement that lacked enough context to convey a clear message, and there was hesitation (possibly opening night nerves) that equally made it difficult to understand (and occasionally hear) some parts of the performance.

For me, the aspect of the show that shone brightest was the storytelling and music. I would go back purely for the quality of the writing, song and poetry of the language. Sepiso’s monologue early on was delivered and written so poignantly it was impossible to not be moved by, and Bailey, who has a gorgeous voice, performed a song that was raw, personal and very engaging. Indeed, the vulnerability of every performer elevated the show and instantly connected you with the individuals - Dau was a grounded, open force during the entire performance and Nduta really came to life in the discussion at the end.

The performers had a powerful connection with the audience through selflessly reaching out to share (quite literally at the conclusion) their homes and lives, and what the exploration of the theme meant to them. I ran a whole gauntlet of emotions watching the show, alongside the performers and a lot of the audience from what I could tell, but they ensured I left Northcote Town Hall feeling content and hopeful, with a lot more on my mind to consider.

This show was heart-touching and beautiful and raw, as promised. I did find myself wanting the performers to back themselves and the ideas they brought to the table more though. The show at times felt a little disjointed, and potentially an outside perspective or some just clearer direction could smoothen out the parts of the show that felt unpolished (a few lighting /transition /costuming issues).

The exquisite honesty and truth that these women have crafted is nothing short of gold, and I would love to see even more of it. Assimilation and integration are such rich, personal topics worthy of further exploration, and these four women are such fierce storytellers that I would love to see an hour-long version of this. And it probably wouldn’t be long enough.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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