A celebration of humanity
By Owen James
New York-based company ‘Remote Theatre Project’ have assembled five actors from across the Palestinian territories for the first time, to create Grey Rock – a compelling exploration of conflict, born from culture versus determination.
Grieving Yusuf finds comfort and distraction by absorbing himself in an unusual passion project – constructing a secret rocket intended for the moon, in his shed. Aided by eager young assistant Fadel, striving to achieve his dream leads to turmoil within his family and religious community, and attracts attention from worldwide media. It’s an engrossing and often suspenseful story that adeptly displays humanity’s worldwide ability to overcome doubt and derision, even when nobody else believes in you.
Though all five Palestinian performers sometimes struggle to overcome the sizeable barrier attached to attempting a language that is not their native tongue, these moments of hesitation reflect the very themes of conquering adversity Grey Rock tackles. Ivan Azazian delivers an energetic, very enjoyable performance as apprentice Fadel, bringing sizzling fervour to the blueprint-laden shed. Fidaa Zaidan as daughter Lila is another standout, with two fiery, emotion-packed monologues that give her deserved moments to shine.
Writer and director Amir Nizar Zuabi has given the work a punchy pace and cleverly allowed characters’ true motivations to unfold slowly, maintaining our interest in Fadel’s escalating mission throughout. Though at many junctures this is a tense drama, Zuabi’s likable characters and frequent beats of comedic relief make the show a joy to watch. Design by Tai Yarden is simple but very effective, with a wall of opaque thin plastic sheets creating shadows and silhouettes often larger than the characters beside them.
Grey Rock embodies every value the Melbourne International Arts Festival exists to explore – “to connect Melbourne with the rest of the world, to connect a complex past with the emerging future, and to connect the passion of artists with the prose of society” – and should be commended for the cultural fusion it celebrates through language and the international curiosity of the human spirit.
Photography by Carlos Cardona