Last Year's Eve by Zac Kazepis tells the moving story of one refugee's experiences of tragedy, belonging and family, and their desire to find a home.
The stage is simple. There is Hugo, played by Kazepis, dressed in a checkered shirt, tie and suspenders and a suitcase with a few of his belongings. He talks directly to the audience to begin. He shows us his latest trip to the Australian immigration office where he was told he would have to leave the country willingly, or they would deport him by force.
On Hugo's last night in Australia, Hugo is downhearted but trying to keep his head held high as he recounts his story. The play moves back and forth between the past and present to reveal how Hugo fled his homeland and a refugee camp as a child, and how his survival cost him his family. Through dialogue and small sound and lighting cues, Kazepis' paints a vivid depiction of a ten-year-old Hugo darting across minefields and other dangerous situations.
Kazepis also portrays characters in Hugo's Australian life like his extended family and colleagues. His workplace acquaintance builds a rapport with Hugo by insulting his food and inviting him to share packaged chips. Despite the light-hearted nature of the scene, it is a quick look at the inadvertent 'othering' of non-Anglo groups in Australia.
Although it is never explicitly stated where Hugo is from or the narrative's time period, the play deals with ongoing concerns for refugees to Australia such as cultural assimilation, isolation and identity.
Unfortunately, the show ended early when there was still so much potential to learn more about Hugo. It felt so intimate to become acquainted with this one person on stage, albeit a fictional character.
Last Year's Eve is playing at the Bakehouse Theatre until March 16.