Review: Elegy

Monologue shares the experiences of Iraqi refugees

By Lois Maskiell 

shares the harrowing experiences of Iraqi men whose lives are in danger because of their sexuality. Written by Douglas Rintoul, this monologue draws on interviews, literature and reports by human rights organisations to present a collection of fast-paced events that depict frightening violations against human rights.

After its first performance in the UK in 2011, Elegy premiered in Australia in 2016 under the direction of John Kachoyan (Bell Shakespeare, Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre) in a Lab Keplie production. Now, as part of Monash University’s MLIVE program, Kachoyan restages this one-man show, in this instance with actor Gareth Reeves (Pete’s Dragon, Underbelly).

It begins in a classroom where a young man’s left hand, which is likened to devilish habits, is tied behind his chair by a school teacher. The setting is Iraq, a politically unstable country that has been tormented by ongoing conflict since the United States ousted the Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein. Continuous sectarian warfare has ensued between competing Shiite and Sunni militia, whose ideologies have justified violent anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments within the country. In a one-hour performance, Elegy shows the result of this violence by broadcasting the experiences of Iraqi refugees facing this devastating environment.

Reeves’ earnest and sober delivery narrates a range of situations that jump from Iraq to Syria and to Calais in France with energy and clarity. Predominantly told through an unnamed third person “him” these events speak of love, war, murder and dreams of a new life in Europe. “He calculates the risk of traveling from one end of the city,” Reeves says. “He knows a woman – her cousin killed at the entrance of her house. Killed for loving a woman.”

Elegy is an honest, dark and affecting performance that tackles the challenging task of representing the experiences of those belonging to another culture, of another country, with respect.

Elegy was performed 16 August at the Alexander Theatre, Monash University, Clayton.
See here for more information about the 2018 MLIVE program.