Tribunal, an imaginary Australian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is possibly the most relevant, urgent and moving of all the 2018 Sydney Festival offerings.
It begins with a welcome to country by Rhonda Dixon Grovenor, who stands proudly centre stage in her totemic possum skin coat establishing her credentials for the role.
What she says next goes straight to the heart of the piece as she reminds us that it is not in Aboriginal culture “to treat people this way”, referring to asylum seekers and refugees.
By implication, it is white culture that treats these desperate people so poorly, and furthermore, this is comparable to the way white culture has treated Indigenous Australians.
But there is no finger pointing.
Instead, in this gently probing piece, each of the characters is allowed to tell his or her own personal – real – story.
The engaging Mahdi Mohammadi and his fellow asylum seeker Jawad Yaqoubi are Afghanis belonging to the persecuted Hazara minority and each has his story to tell.
Katie Green describes the horrors she had to face as a Red Cross worker, such as the self-immolation of an Afghani asylum seeker.
The piece was devised by the Fairfield-based theatre company PYT, whose artistic director, Karen Therese, also appeared on stage to relay, with great emotion, the words of her real-life friend, a human rights lawyer suffering guilt and even PTSD over his failure to help a boy in detention who was the victim of sexual abuse.
They are joined on stage by creative collaborator Paul Dyer who takes on the role of the immigration agent.
Rappers Bilal Hafda and Iman Etri join the actors on stage to add their own special form of protest, and the audience is given directions about how to help those seeking our help.
A most unusual and “worthy” piece of theatre. Highly recommended.
Until Jan 21. Sydney Festival Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh. $39+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyfestival.org.au
Reviewed by Irina Dunn.