Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Deceptive Threads review

What do a nineteenth century Lebanese immigrant and an Australian singer / spy have in common? They are both the grandfathers of David Joseph and in Deceptive Threads, Joseph digs into the mystery of these men and how despite their pasts, they have both ended up playing a prominent role in his present and continue to do so with his future.

Joseph and Karen Berger have devised this show, and between them they perform, direct, and create the set, sound and projection designs (along with Zoe Scolgio for the latter). In doing so, they allow for the design elements to work together and form a deeply layered intimacy that draws the audience into these two tales and for Joseph to seamlessly flow between the two.

Joseph's portrayal of the two men is lovingly performed and finds a great balance of remaining true to who these men were but also - what we can only assume - heightening their personalities. Costuming is kept to a minimum but successfully differentiates the two men and signifying where they have come from and why they behave the way they do. The small space in La Mama is effectively used to match the time and geographical location of the story with the exceptional sound design by Joseph and Berger and original lighting design by Joseph and Bronwyn Pringle, which has been re-designed by Gina Gascoigne for this production.

While Joseph shares these two stories, projections are played on a draped sheet running along the back of the stage. They show photos and images of the men and their lives at the time and are also used to highlight the connections between all three of them. At times, the images are presented on other items, such as suitcases and filing cabinets, as well as on Joseph's body, reminding us of the untold tales of the past and the knowledge that we carry from our ancestors, whether we are aware of it or not.

But Deceptive Threads is not just a tale of these men, but a wider look at Australia's racism and xenophobia and how at the time of his grandfather's immigration, the Lebanese were seen as a threat to society with Elias Joseph having to pretend he was Greek to be permitted to stay. While not focusing on it too heavily, Joseph ensures that the audience understands that this discrimination, while perhaps not directed towards the Lebanese community as heatedly, still exists and is entrenched in Australian policy and law-making.

Families come in many forms and its definition will vary from person to person. While it's always important to look towards the future, it is vital to acknowledge the past and the events that occurred that got you were you are today. Deceptive Threads allow Joseph to unravel the questions of his family and weave it together to deepen his own identity. It's a touching exercise in considering our own family and ancestors and how these stories have often been at odds with Australia's dark history.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton 
Season: until 13 May | Wed 6:30pm, Thu-Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.00pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

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