Where: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
When: Until August 19
Preview: Stephen A Russell
When the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla erupted into racially charged riots on December 11, 2005, the nation was horrified, and the rest of the world looked on in disgust.
Award-winning playwright Reg Cribb drew on those events for his fascinating play Unaustralia, which tells the story of devout Muslim teenager Ali, whose brother, Fadi, is at the centre of the altercation that sparks the riot.
Director Tim Nolan expands on his developmental staging of the play at La Mama in 2010, returning to the venue with a fuller production next week.
“When I originally saw it, I was blown away and really grateful that an Australian writer as good as Reg decided to deal with this issue,’’ Nolan says. ‘‘Part of the reason I’m doing it now is I just don’t feel there’s enough contemporary Australian theatre.”
The play tackles heavy issues but there is no preaching. “It’s a blackly comic piece,” Nolan says. “Reg has been able to deal with such a shocking event in a witty manner, portraying interesting characters from both backgrounds, and he hasn’t been afraid to show some of the less palatable aspects of Australian society.”
Nolan says the first production garnered positive feedback from Melbourne’s Lebanese community.
“They said it was difficult to watch because there is some very divisive language and quite uncomfortable scenes, but they recognised this was a story that needed to be told,” he says.
Nolan recalls his horror at the Cronulla riots. “It was one of the rare times I felt physically sick watching a news item. We have this view of Australia as a welcoming, tolerant and ethnically diverse country, but the events of 2005 completely flew in the face of that.”
His cast includes a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, including Muslim teenagers who share their experiences of growing up here.
Set and lighting design by Ken Roach recreates the essence of Cronulla.
“He’s come up with a brilliant set that represents both sand and surf and the concrete of Australian suburbia at the same time,” Nolan says. “It’s impressive.”
Details: Call: 9347 6142 or visit: lamama.com.au