Review by Nola Bartolo
Lara Week, La Mama and Critical Stages Touring present Them, written by the award winning Samah Sabawi which opened last night at Riverside Theatre in Parramatta. Them is an extremely important piece with its harrowing yet humorously honest depiction of the reality of war. The reality that so many people across the globe are facing. The reality that we as an Australian audience need to see. Who are ‘they’ and who are ‘them’? Good question. We are never really told where they are. It could be any Arabic speaking people in any Arabic speaking land. However, we are told who they are. They are the face of many displaced peoples in the world today.
The director has done a wonderful job of personalising the performance. Even as audience walks in we find the cast singing in Arabic and dancing, clapping and having a fun time. So, early on we are shown the human side to these characters. Friends, simply having fun. We too clap along and enjoy the music and the dancing. We identify. Well, I certainly did. The beautiful energy and connection between the actors and the writer were evident as when Samah Sabawi walked in she danced with them on the stage for but a moment. A proud and intimate moment to witness. I could feel the love between them. The play begins with the sound of bombs quickly changing the mood and we are brought into the stark reality of this young couple and their baby. Leila played beautifully by Taj Aldeeb vulnerable performance and Omar who was brilliantly brought to life by Adbulrahman Hammoud, hide under their bed with their young baby. Omar, who is an idealist, filled with hope brings sweet romantic humour to the relationship as he tries very hard to bring a chaotic and dire situation some normality. He almost succeeds. Leila wants desperately to leave the war-torn city to save themselves and their young baby. Omar is not so sure. Are they prepared to pay the price or not?
The play takes us into the lives of this young couple, their friends Mohamed played by Sahil Saluja, Majid played by Mehran Tajbakhsh, the Piano Man played by Meena Shamaly and Omar’s sister powerfully played with grit by Claudia Greenstone. Lara Week’s set design was perfectly simplistic and effective in setting the stage. Hanging louvered window shutters, basic furniture rolled in and out on wheels and rubble set along the back of the stage take us into their home and living environment. Shane Grant’s lighting design of hanging light bulbs adds to the effect.
It takes a village to raise a child and this play has taken a village to help it come to fruition and put page to stage.
Them is a thought provoking, hard hitting and heartbreaking piece of work that discusses big themes that cannot and should not be ignored. Beautifully written by Sabawi, with genuine direction from Popov who has been able to draw the best out of the cast. The acting is raw, vulnerable, funny and powerful. All performers had my attention. All of them. Do not miss this!
The Australian Tour dates run from July – September. For details and more information head to
Image Credit: Mark Gambino