Stranger in the Corridor: La Mama

Mammad Aidani’s 'IF, as' and 'Stranger in the Corridor' kick off the launch of La Mama’s 'Explorations Season' for 2009; a series of short, experimental theatrical pieces penned by emerging and veteran artists alike.
Stranger in the Corridor: La Mama
Mammad Aidani’s IF, as and Stranger in the Corridor kick off the launch of La Mama’s Explorations Season for 2009; a series of short, experimental theatrical pieces penned by emerging and veteran artists alike. This Iranian born playwright, poet, philosopher and academic, an established cultural and creative presence in Melbourne, certainly falls into the latter category; his work being both critically acclaimed and performed internationally. La Mama’s cosy confines and unpretentious trappings make room for what the punters are really here to see; performing art. The audience filters in to IF, as, confronted by the impressively motionless Shahin Shafaei, who admirably maintains this frozen stance, gazing fixedly into the distance until the whole crowd settles. It’s only shortly after being joined on the park bench by Elenz Sheshgelani, that it becomes evident that Shafei is blind. Political turmoil and trauma are subtly symbolized by Elenz’s casual perusal of a human rights brochure, emblazoned with the amnesty international symbol. A playful Socratic dialogue about the nature of seeing and hearing follows; a meditation on semiotics and the nature of existence. One person seeing but only hearing and one blind, is both metaphorical as well as literal. This brief, sparsely staged and well executed piece leaves on a note of existential angst; both experience a brief moment of total communication, the two part ways; one craving the others unattainable companionship. In a somewhat surreal and slightly jarring operation, director/designer Lloyd Jones dismantles the set with the help of an audience member and a pair of secateurs. He reorganises the theatre, creating a human corridor of audience members; starting at the hanging, jangle of mirror shards, ending at a cupboard near the stairs. Darkly lit, Majid Shokor and Shahin Shafaei enter, armed with thick scripts and miners cap lamps, dressed in blue collar jeans and jumpers, each taking one side of the corridor. Mining is a good metaphor for this excavation into psychological decay. The spoken words read like a screenplay, and also assume the form of a dramatic monologue spoken in a purposefully discordant dual chorus about a man, driven mad by trauma; “a slave of an unlocked pain.” The invocation and revocation of place and the effect of trauma and exile are communicated by both actor’s skillful reading; weeping, laughing and alternatively deadpan. The shimmer of mirrors reflect the stage bound audience; solemn and engaged. This atmosphere of introspection and confrontation sadly falters as the monologue drags on; the crowd visibly shifts and seems restless. Sans music, with minimal staging and no real characters; two disembodied voices reading from the page for an extensive period is a real challenge to set for any audience. Whilst the Stranger in the Corridor, has philosophical, literary and indeed dramatic merit, it seems that the play sacrifices a real opportunity for emotional connection in favour of slow intensity and intellectual exploration. Brevity or perhaps more character development or audience interactivity may ensure a more lively reception of this intellectually exciting and innovative piece of theatre. Explorations Season: STRANGER IN THE CORRIDOR/ IF, as LA MAMA - 205 Faraday Street, Carlton 3053 Mon Oct 12 – Wed Oct 14 @ 7.30 pm Explorations Season: Mon Oct 12 - Sun Dec 20, 2009 Tickets Available at La Mama/Box Office 205 Faraday Street, Carlton 3053 Phone: (03) 9347 6948 Fax: (03) 9349 2063

Ruth McIver

Thursday 15 October, 2009

About the author

Ruth McIver is Melbourne based music writer, arts reviewer and emerging novelist.