The Process is a news headline, a testimonial, a late night news snapshot featuring bumbling politicians. It is the dots connected when we read about atrocities in detention centres and it is a human form given to facts and statistics. The Process wants you to look at the media, look at the government, look at yourself – and laugh and cry in response at the irony, the inadequacy and the cruelty you find there. In many ways the production is simple, and though this at times can be to its discredit, it never strays from a clarity of purpose – directing its audience to face frankly the atrocities Australians are standing behind by supporting our government’s refugee policies.
Theatre is known to be an avenue through which political ideas are often explored and forefronted, as the very act of putting bodies in a space and asking that an audience watch is, in and of itself, a political act. However, it is often a question of how political a piece should or can be without alienating its audience. In order to maintain audience engagement, an answer to this is often found in centring a piece around personal stories and accounts. While The Process is bold in the way it unashamedly states its political intentions, it makes sure to rest its message on the story of a Tamil refugee to lend humanity to the fraught issue of ‘boat people’ (though whether this reach at emotional connection is enough to convince a sceptical audience member – if one did by chance stumble into this play – remains a question in a piece so specifically driven by an ideological viewpoint). However, given the almost ‘stock’ quality of the story told (Rajoo has suffered the horrors that rest within the cultural idea of what a refugee has suffered), it is in this case the political backdrop to the piece that gives it its emotional weight. The fact that the ludicrous process dramatized before the audience closely resembles the actual refugee process is enough to invoke rage and horror in an audience member. And herein lies the beauty of the piece. In a venue as small as the Butterfly Club, this piece situates you directly in Rajendra Moodley’s personal space, encourages you to connect superficially with the story of the character he portrays, and then hammers home that this is the actual situation that you are condoning within Australia. While the piece itself doesn’t contain a great deal of nuance or depth, it doesn’t need to. The fact that it forefronts such atrocities occurring under Australia’s control is shocking and moving enough.
The production utilizes the Butterfly Club’s stage with a confident ease. Though the design is not particularly inventive, the clarity with which space is designated and employed through lighting and set is satisfying, with the performers seeming to brim from the space with their presence and energy. Rajendra Moodley, as the central role of Rajoo Mahalingham, gives a strong and supple performance. His clear and robust transitions from comedy to tragedy are supported by Emma Louis Pursey, Paul Watson and Lisa Dallinger, whose performances as often satirical supporting roles are a combination of strikingly funny and heart-warming. Costume is sharp and clean, serving the action and tone of the piece.
More than anything, The Process is a pointing hand towards the unfairness and horrendousness of offshore refugee processing. This neat little theatre piece allows its audience to engage in the humanity behind the statistics and news stories of detention centre detainees and the inhumanity behind the process to determine their fates.