Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play The Suicide was banned in Soviet Russia, no doubt for the implied criticism of the regime in the work. This explains why it has lent itself to many adaptations at different times and places.
Director Eamon Flack says, “I love a big play full of odd-balls and dreamers and Erdman’s play is chockers with both. Erdman is a comic genius. I really think if Stalin hadn’t put the kybosh on him he’d have become one of the great comic playwrights of the twentieth century.”
Thirteen actors take to the stage in Eamon Flack and Co’s reworking of the original play, which is reborn in this production as an Australian black comedy in which the original setting, a Stalinist camp, has been relocated to a modern refugee camp.
Flack says, “It’s such a brilliant idea, to take the misery and ridiculousness of life and turn it into a farce in order to show the situation for what is was. Comedy is brilliant at talking about embarrassing, difficult things. In this country for example we’re so embarrassed and panicked by the existence in the world of refugees.”
Flack has a particular take on refugees, “Here’s the thing about refugees – they’re not saints, and they’re not demons. They’re ordinary idiots like the rest of us, except their lives got turned upside down and they’ve got nowhere else to go. So we’ve moved the setting from Russia in 1928 to one of these big refugee camps of today.”
A great cast of “mad clowns” includes Yalin Ozucelik, Paula Arundell, Fayssal Bazzi, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash and Hazem Shammas.
Ozucelik really enjoyed the experience of acting in Sami In Paradise, “There’s such infectious, comic energy flowing from our large, diverse cast, it’s impossible not to be roused by it. “Ozucelik also says he hopes “to be a valuable part of the public conversation” on the topic of refugees.
Apr 1-29. Upstairs Theatre, 18 & 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills. $37-$77+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.belvoir.com.au
By Irina Dunn