Tuesday 12 January 2016

Elegy - Midsumma Festival preview

Based on interviews with gay refugees, Elegy is an emotionally powerful story of a young gay Iraqi man fleeing from persecution in search of a better life. Presented by independent theatre company Lab Kelpie, Elegy is a Midusmma Festival premiere event that should be on everyone's 'must see' list. The play, inspired by first-person accounts by photo-journalist Bradley Secker is paired with an exhibition by Secker of said photos, which allows the audience to build on what we are seeing on stage and create a greater sense of authenticity and honesty. 

"There was such an immense sense of emotion I felt after reading the story. I still have difficulty reading the script at times," co-producer Adam Fawcett says. "This story grabs you by the heartstrings with its capacity to explore love against the harsh reality of life in the Middle East for LGBTI people. The fact that it is based on real people made it all the more powerful for me. As soon as we both finished reading it, we knew we wanted to produce it."

"An “elegy” is, by definition, a deeply reflective poem - and that’s indeed what the theatre piece Elegy is. The poetry of the text lends itself to a musical sensibility, and the non-linear storytelling can often feel as if sounds - aeroplanes, buzzers, dogs, many more - “trigger” the often sudden and sometimes violent transitions between the narrator’s recollected scenes," Brooks elaborates. "We are stupidly lucky to have secured the talents of Tony-nominated sound designer and composer, Russell Goldsmith, to create our soundscape from scratch."

Starring in Elegy is Nick Simpson-Deeks (TV's Winners & Losers) whose casting was a serendipitous moment for the producers. "Lyall was actually supposed to play the role initially, but when we did a development last year, Lyall wanted to see the piece from the audience’s perspective, so we got Nick in to do the reading for us," Fawcett explains. "As soon as we saw the incredible mix of fragility and energy that Nick brought to the work it was Lyall who actually said to me, “I’ve just lost a job!” We’re really looking forward to audiences being able to see Nick’s performance in this work, he’s an incredibly talented actor and the perfect fit for this piece."

The fact that Brooks and Fawcett - two white middle-class men - are telling the story of gay Muslim refugees using a white middle-class man in the role, is something the two thought long and hard about before choosing to produce this work. "The persistent fear I felt for a long time was 'what right we have to tell this incredibly personal story of these persecuted Iraqi asylum seekers - ostensibly in front of a bunch of other white middle class people?” Brooks explains. "I hated the thought of it all coming across as, at best, exploitative or, at worst, misery-porn. I had to remind myself that our intentions are pure, the piece was originally created with the utmost sensitivity and, ultimately, the greater crime is not telling the story at all."

Elegy is a powerful work that has not only left its mark on international audiences but also on everyone who has helped bring this story to stage in Australia. "I hope people will experience the same reaction I did when I first read the play - that internal conflict of wanting to look away and forget what you’ve just seen, but not being able to look away at the same time," Fawcett says. "But mostly, I hope people will come away with a greater awareness of the challenges faced by our LGBTI friends in other parts of the world. I believe from awareness comes understanding and from understanding comes change. I hope Elegy is a small part of that."

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park, 3206
Season: 19 January - 6 February | Wed - Sat 7pm, Sat 4pm
$25 Full | $20 Conc
| $18 Preview

Bookings: Midsumma Festival 

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