HAKAWATI is an Arabic word which translates to “teller of tales”. Stay with me now as, oddly, I quote Dolly Parton from Facebook in 2010 “My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order”. Go Dolly!
Moving on. We all have our weaknesses and I also have food at the head of my own list. But next in line for me is stories… old, new, sad, uplifting, about my world, about other lives … I don’t have a preference. How intrigued was I then to hear about HAKAWATI, playing in Parramatta as part of the Sydney Festival!
Created and directed by Wayne Harrison this is an experience which is intimate and alive: the food is delicious and the storytelling expert.
At a long table book-ended by two ponderous chairs we sit, sharing mezze with friends, family or strangers. There is background music and lots of chatter but as the lighting gently crosses from high vibration blue to a warm and welcoming orange, the storyteller commands attention.
National Living Treasure, Sandy Gore opens the big book to begin the humorous and heart-warming account of a whirling young man named Kevin from the “great Kingdom of East Granville”. Books are the traditional starting point of the Hakawati but this is a tale of “modern Western Sydney” and our guides have more than pulped and pressed tree at their disposal. Olivia Rose, Dorjee Michael Swallow and Sal Sharah brilliantly weave the story of Karam, (the name his father gave him), his family and his neighbours with camera, iPad, song, drumbaki, puppetry, dance and four gilt edged LED screens.
This is a subversive, complicated fairy story of aspiration, culture clash and death by KFC, passionately delivered with moments of pure pathos balanced with intrigue and mystery. You have to concentrate to keep up with the goings on at the Life Bakery and the Rouse Hill 7-Eleven. This is not made easy as four courses of authentic food arrive, cued by our taletellers, and around you for the taking are the stories of the strangers with whom you break bread.
HAKAWATI is a marvellous night out and perhaps, bear with me, such an enjoyable evening might provide you with what Julie Andrews described as “favourite things”.
HAKAWATI, playing as part of this years’ Sydney Festival program, continues at El-Phoenician, Church Street Parramatta as part of the Sydney Festival until 29 January.