Presented by Brave New Word Theatre Company, family drama Son of Byblos is now playing Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre as part of the 25A 2022 season.
Son of Byblos follows a young gay man who feels he has life is under control until his cousin makes an announcement, which causes his private world and the expectations of his family to clash. Written by James Elazzi and directed by Anna Jahjah, audiences can catch this exciting new work until Saturday 21 May.
Theatre People caught up with Anna Jahjah, who provided some insights into what audiences can expect from Son of Byblos.
Theatre People: Were you familiar with James Elazzi’s works before signing on to direct Son of Byblos? What do you enjoy most about his writing?
Anna Jahjah: Yes, I attended a performance of Lady Tabouli at Riverside Parramatta, and what impressed me most then was James’s ability to mix comic situations and drama to create something poignant and memorable.
TP: Without giving too much away, can you provide a brief insight into what Son of Byblos is about?
AJ: It’s the story of Adam, a second generation Lebanese-Australian young man who is gay and is torn between who he is and who his parents/his cultural entourage want him to be. The only person he can relate to is his cousin, Kate, who is gay as well. She decides to get married to a Lebanese man to have a family and blend in, which makes Adam question his own life choices.
TP: What is it about Son of Byblos that makes it a great piece to bring to the stage in Sydney in 2022?
AJ: I think it’s because, although it’s a very specific topic set in a very specific cultural environment, it is also universal and can resonate with a lot of people. It’s universal in its specificity.
TP: Tell me about the cast you’ve assembled for this production.
AJ: [They are] just mind-blowing – Kate Bookallil, Violette Elias Ayad, Simon Elrahi, Deborah Galanos, and Mansoor Noor. I had already worked with Kate and Mansoor, so I knew how amazing they were, and I got to discover how amazing Violette, Simon and Deb were as well during rehearsals, so much so I keep telling them that with a great script and great actors, the director does not have much to do.
TP: Have you directed previously in Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre? What do you think the biggest challenge will be in bringing Son of Byblos to life in this space?
AJ: Yes, I directed a play called Beirut Adrenaline seven years ago. The biggest challenge, which is also a great asset, is to have the audience on three sides of the stage. Another one is the size of the stage. It’s quite small (which I love) and the play is set in five different locations, so we need to be really creative!
TP: Conversely, what do you find most exciting about presenting a piece in the Downstairs Theatre?
AJ: The space, the audience, the location, the history, everything! Also, Belvoir has been amazingly welcoming and supportive, which made and is still making the whole experience all the more exciting.
TP: Son of Byblos was originally included in Belvoir’s 2020 25A Season, so its journey to the stage has been significantly delayed by the pandemic. Given those delays, you must be incredibly eager to finally be able to share this piece with an audience?
AJ: Absolutely! It’s been years in the making and what’s amazing is that the play matured with us, in terms of writing, directing and acting. I think it would have been a very different play if we had staged it last year, for example.
AJ: It’s very unique, deep, funny, sad, disturbing, confronting, [and it has] super writing and acting – everything I love about theatre.
SON OF BYBLOS – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 21 May 2022
Venue: Downstairs Theatre, Belvoir (25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills)
TICKETS: $25 (+booking fee)
ONLINE BOOKINGS HERE