The Audition review by Lyn Zelen

 ***** stars

Are actors and asylum seekers in the same boat?

Outer Urban Projects new Australian premier of The Audition examines auditions and immigration in Australia. The aptly named La Mama Courthouse theatre, casts no judgments, asking you to observe and scrutinize the parallels of the perplexing processes.

This unique concept is derived from raw and heartfelt stories from the emerging writer/performers who are also asylum seekers and immigrants. The Audition explores the correlation of subservient roles actors and refugees play hoping and waiting to be accepted to tread the boards or stay within Australian borders.

Seven eye-opening and breathtaking stories are the cultivation of an amazing collective of artists: award winning playwrights Christos Tsiolkas, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Tes Lyssiotis, Wahibe Moussa, intuitive artistic director Irine Vela and dramaturg Maryanne Lynch, stellar actors Mary Sitarenos, Peter Paltos, the fresh talents of Milad Norouzi (writer and performer) and Sahra Davoudi (writer and performer), and classical musician Vahideh Eisaei.

Each individual show draws parallels against the power protocols and the demoralising aftermath of acting auditions, to playing the part of the appreciative asylum seeker.

The Doll is Patricia Cornelius’ interpretation of the Australian 1953 classic play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Mary Sitarenos casts a stunning silhouette auditioning for the part of Olive Leech travelling with her Aussie sugar-cane cutter partner, for five months of frivolity in Melbourne. Prejudice still plays a big part on and off the Australian stage. She is told she is not right for the part, she’s not Australian enough, ‘She is not white’.

The remarkable spartan sandy set brings Tes Lyssiotis three disturbing vignettes of the desolate life in the Woomera Immigration Detention Centre to La Mama theatre. The imagery is hauntingly honest. A young girl (Sahra Davoudi) has no friends in the Centre; she drags a line in the sand behind her with her only toy, a stick. Like auditioning for a director, the innocent child must wait to be acknowledged, she can’t cross that line or barbed wire fence, unless she meets the criteria first. Peter Paltos portrays a convincing grief stricken father whose daughter has drowned. If only he could remember the colour of her eyes? A middle-aged couple are now outcasts in this country.

You Made Us a Promise What You told Us Today Would Be True is Melissa Reeves story displays the interviewing process of immigrants. Peter Paltos engages the audience of the inner workings in his mind and the harsh realities of protocols versus humanity.

The Audition multifaceted ensemble of writer/performers include Iranian born actor Sahra Davoudi’s original story Seven Days—she must convince the Immigration Officer of a tangible reason why she didn’t marry her fiancé and is entitled to stay in Australia.

Outstanding newcomer Milad Norouzi’s inspirational work Beautiful Jail is moving. An asylum seeker wishes to break free of the detention walls. “If only he were a bird … to fly far away” from the prison constraints. Vahideh Eisaei’s classical Iranian improvisations on the kanun, pair perfectly with Malid’s poignant phrases, as he imitates a bird soaring free.

Christos Tsiolkas satirical piece about Trojan Women injects some light-hearted comic relief to demonstrate the Australian theatre rules and regulations. His incredible personal experience and expertise is obvious in Ava and Vida.

Vida helps Ava prepare for the audition and insists she try to look and sound Australian. Ironically, the director (Peter Paltos) suggests Iranian Ava “Needs to be more authentic—“… this time keep your accent” and he throws her a hijab to put on her head and directs her how to wear it.

Wahibe Moussa’s confronting story ‘I Can Be Her’ questions the “so-called” suffering of asylum seekers. Has she really lost everything, her family, friends, employment, and her country? Can she play the part with more emotion? Sahra Davoudi is hilarious trying to “act out” being a refugee.

Outer Urban Projects creatives peel back the layers of truth—refugees harrowing journey in over-crowded boats, lives ebbing away in the quicksand of the Woomera Detention Centre and multicultural misconceptions.

The Audition is unforgettable. Actors, asylum seekers and immigrants remind us of perpetual expectations.

Performances:               5.0 / 5

Costumes:                     5.0 / 5

Sets:                              5.0 / 5

Lighting:                                 5.0 / 5

Sound:                                    5.0 / 5

Direction:                      5.0 / 5

Stage Management:       5.0 / 5

Images – Darren Gill