By Lali Gill
Produced by Apocalypse Theatre Co and Green Door Theatre, Omar and Dawn is a new play by up-and-coming Australian playwright, James Elazzi that explores themes of sexuality, isolation and connection in a modern and endearing new story. There is no way not to be excited about what is to come after having seen this debut production.
As the audience take their seats in KXT’s cosy upstairs space, Dawn (Maggie Blinco) sits on stage, at an old table, looking deep in thought. The lights go down, and when they return we are faced with four characters strewn across the stage.
Omar (Antony Makhlouf) is a Lebanese Muslim Australian, who at seventeen years old is in and out of foster homes - both his parents no longer in the picture. He finds himself placed in the simple home of Dawn, an eighty year old woman with a strong and firey wit. Ahmed (Mansoor Noor), Omar’s best friend, lives under a bridge and works as a sex-worked after being kicked out of home by his family for being gay. When Omar is offered a job by Dawn’s brother, Darren (Lex Marinos), Omar and Dawn follows the pair as they struggle through change, together, and try to hold on.
Technically, the production is sleek and effective, with Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design adding drama, suspense and sharpness to the piece. Despite the changing locations throughout the text, the set did not change throughout the show, nor did it need to thanks to the brilliant work of Production Designer, Alesia Jelbart. The set seamlessly transitioned between kitchen, workplace and even under the bridge without ever losing the audience. Ben Pierpoint’s use of music was highly emotive and, despite being subtle, added considerably to the overall feel of Omar and Dawn. With characters hardly leaving the stage throughout, the production felt very intimate and it was this closeness that remained prevalent from start to finish and, as such, kept the audience completely enthralled.
Solidly directed by Dino Dimitriadis, the entire cast is strong, with a standout performance by Mansoor Noor. His humanity and authenticity remained throughout and his connection with the other actors was beautiful. A moment I particularly loved was as Ahmed and Omar sat together, daydreaming aloud of their peaceful place and who they each see there. The dialogue in this scene was written more poetically than the rest of the play and didn’t shy away from that. Delivery by Makhlouf and Noor was earnest and brave, and in that moment I felt very close with Omar and Ahmed, which helped propel the story forward.
The work is dotted with humour, all of which landed and had the audience properly laughing. Blinco’s comic timing is excellent, and her mannerisms so deliberate and detailed. One of the funnier scenes in the production saw a chat between Omar and Darren about Darren’s sex life perfectly delivered and paced.
In a show that explores such complex themes of sexuality and identity, I felt the text struggled to focus on any one concept. This isn’t inherently a negative thing, though I did find myself struggling to pinpoint the exact message of the story. I cared about Omar, Ahmed and Dawn equally, and by the end, I wanted them all to be happy. Though I’m still wondering “who is this story about?”, it is a beautiful one nonetheless.
I would have loved to have seen some cultural exchange between Omar and Dawn, perhaps of Lebanese food, or language. She gives him so much, and he to her, too, but indirectly. I wanted to see him share with her his culture, and enrich her life equally.
Omar and Dawn is an exciting new work, and I hope this is the direction our industry is heading in!
Photo Credit: Robert Catto
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.