[AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE ~ SYRIA]
Dunstan Playhouse, Tue 30 Oct.
Performed in Arabic with English surtitles
Set in Damascus, While I Was Waiting introduces us to a very human side of the conflict and upheaval in Syria in recent years. The situation sometimes seems clear and at other times very much not so, no doubt the result of some well thought out writing and directing to reflect the reality on the ground.
We are introduced to the troubles of the times through the lives of those caring for Taym, a young man in a coma at first in hospital and then at home. There is mother, sister, girlfriend, best friend (hash buddy) and one of Taym’s companions in limbo (a torture victim of the regime). The set uses three main spaces; the main stage area is first the hospital room and with a quick change around becomes Taym’s old apartment where his sister decides to stay and then cares for him in his coma. Fittingly, above this is a scaffolded higher stage where most of the limbo action takes place.
Towards the start of the play we hear at least part of the story of Taym’s limbo companion, that he is clearly dead, places the higher stage setting to be clearly not the world we inhabit (It has also been designed to reflect the bombed multi-story apartments that are far to regularly on our TV screens). However there is a bit of mirth and fun in this place, they get to go around and do what they want to, but cannot actually interact with the world (though the play cleverly lets this veil slip at times with some interaction, a bit like people seeing their memories and imaginations as real thought bubbles, as grief, definitely not as psychosis).
The play makes no apologies of getting to the nitty gritty of life in difficult times and to see it reflected in a family situation is to hold the situation up in a mirror that allows us to more clearly identify and empathise with the travails of the people of Syria. It also has a relatively robust presentation of the Islamic world, female characters that are self-determining rather than submissive, young men who are happy to play with music and with drugs. And families with ghosts of infidelity as well as communications and other issues that hold them back from dealing with the trauma of Taym’s situation, let alone the war around them. While we understand the ‘accident’ that led to Taym’s coma, at no stage do we know definitively if it is to do with his activism and the state’s secret police, or a mafia like drug lord problem which is an interesting comparison we are being asked to consider.
The players are convincing, the family relationships and difficulties are very easy to relate to and the play itself, while dark and deep, is quite satisfying, although I would imagine a bit more dread at what might have been the secret police knocking at the door, as well as the bombing and war that keeps coming closer. While I Was Waiting is satisfying, creatively presented theatre that pushes our boundaries.
While I Was Waiting continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 7.30pm on Wed 31 Oct.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.