I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
I am speaking, but you don't hear me
Entering the theatre to see bAKEHOUSE Theatre's latest offering, The Laden Table, I am instantly transported to a lush, warm and inviting dinner party. A myriad of hanging globes emanate a glow over a long table, held up by a looping mess of black and red cables that conjure up stark images of the crude wiring used in bombings.
Written by Nur Alam, Raya Gadir, Chris Hill, Marian Kernahan, Ruth Kliman and Yvonne Perczuk, The Laden Table tells the story of two Australian families: one Jewish and one Muslim and the way that their two worlds collide in the form of a romance between their children whilst they're away from home living in the Middle East. It's exciting to see an indie theatre company tackle this subject matter onstage – it's tricky, it's daring and it ultimately pays off in this production.
Director Suzanne Millar has done a beautiful job bringing together the joy, hurt, differences in beliefs and skeletons in the closet that all come out to play at family dinners. Benjamin Brockman's lighting design is effective, subtle and his use of the hanging lightbulbs over the table is just downright gorgeous. Mansoor Noor and Jessica Paterson give strong and gut-wrenching performances as the star-crossed lovers.
Suz Mawer is outstanding as a Muslim-Australian professor, wife and mother and she really hits her straps as the tension rises in the family towards the end of the play. Justina Ward and Sarah Meacham shine as the put upon younger sisters of each family, garnering the majority of the comic moments and delivering them beautifully. Gigi Sawires is moving and utterly believable as the Muslim grandmother; her pain and cultural displacement is evident subtly present throughout the work, leading right up to the play's climax. Overall the ensemble performance is strong and engaging with all actors working as a team to achieve a cohesive and moving piece of theatre.
Full of pointed commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 85 minute performance is always engaging, even when some scenes seem a little laboured (though not enough to draw any sort of meaningful criticism). The play reminds us that there are always at least two sides to every story and the importance of empathy, compassion and understanding.
The Laden Table plays at the Kings Cross Theatre until 25th March.