THEM, 2022 Australian Tour | Review

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THEM, written by Samah Sabawi and directed by Bagryana Popov, offers a poignant insight into the everyday happenings of a young family living in a warzone. Sabawi reflects on personal lived experiences as a Palestinian refugee and the experiences of Syrian refugees to develop authentic and complex characters that show us the multifaceted experience of those forging a life in the midst of conflict.

Too often, people from refugee backgrounds are reduced in Australia to a single identity – that of a refugee. But young couple Leila (Taj Aldeeb) and Omar (Abdulrahman Hammoud) joke with their friends, keep in touch with family on social media, and make love amidst constant bombing, while simultaneously debating whether to stay or seek asylum with their baby. Salma (Claudia Greenstone) arranges the selling of women into marriage for families struggling to survive, a job her family condemns, but couldn’t survive without. A street musician (Meena Shamaly) attempts to keep morale up by playing the piano in the street until he just can’t anymore.

A stage littered with rubble and blown-out windows sets the scene for our characters’ experiences including being questioned by an armed soldier and putting glow-in-the-dark stickers in the cupboard under the sink as a makeshift nursery. Lively piano music and singing is prominent at the beginning of the story, but gives way to explosions, crowds yelling and running water as the conflict worsens, reflecting Leila and Omar’s gradual loss of colour in their lives, and increasing focus on surviving from one minute to the next.

The everyday difficulties of living are also depicted in the clothes of Leila, Omar and Salma. Leila and Omar, who never leave the city, wear loose, worn-out clothes, while the wealthier Salma wears more fashionable, fitted pieces. Both women don hijabs when outside, reflective of the ideology of the unnamed group that controls their city.

THEM is a heartfelt story of the victims of conflict so many in the western world refuse to help or even acknowledge. It’s a sobering reminder that so many, knowing how those who fled before them were treated by countries like Australia, have chosen to bunker down in warzones and hope for peace. It shows us why we cannot allow the identities of people in these situations to be boiled down to a title that erases the life lived, filled with friends and family, love, laughter and music. Because this is the only way to rediscover our humanity. One of 2022’s must-see shows.

Purchase your ticket to THEM here.

THEM, 2022 Australian Tour | Tasting Notes

Aussie Season27 July to 8 September 2022, Multiple Venues. Lara Week, La Mama, and Critical Stages Touring
Ticket $$23-40
WriterSamah Sabawi
DirectorBagryana Popov
Theatre Type & Genreplay, drama
See it if you likepolitically charged storytelling
Other InfoWinner of the Green Room Independent Theatre Award for Best Writing, nominated for Green Room Awards including Best Independent Production, and shortlisted for the prestigious Victorian Premier’s Literary Award as well as the Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting, NSW Premier’s Literary Award.
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