80 year-old Dawn, (Maggie Blinco), is a remarkable woman, the kind who should be awarded an OA for her services to the homeless and destitute. She volunteers at St Vincents Hospital by day and shelters and fosters destitute teenagers by night. She gradually convinces the reluctant Omar, (Antony Makhlouf), a street boy alienated by his Lebanese family for being gay, to be placed with her and learn some practical, life-affirming skills from Dawn’s mechanic brother, Darren, (Lex Marinos), who works from a garage at their house.
Omar is hard work, but Maggie is persistent..and tough. She temporarily holds back her house keys from Omar, who is fond of swearing and far from respectful, and imposes a curfew on him. Darren is not happy with his sister’s domestic arrangements and, although there is love between them, he keeps suggesting she move into a retirement home. Of course she refuses and we find out later that Darren has other motives.
Omar is sent to work in Darren’s garage at 8.30am sharp. He is late the first day and sent away by Darren who has successfully learnt to master ‘tough love’. However, Omar’s violent rebellion is being chipped away by Dawn’s warm bed and cooked meals and he returns to Darren on time.
Omar has been spending most of his time with his best friend Ahmed, (Mansoor Noor), another Lebanese teenager rejected by his family because of his sexuality. Ahmed is hardened and bitter, choosing to live under a bridge, working as a sex worker. Omar, equally disillusioned and bitter, joins in with him occasionally for some money. Ahmed eventually gets to meet Maggie, when protagonist Omar begins to change and wants more stability.
Award-winning Dino Dimitriadis has done a fabulous job directing the play in the intimate and cosy space that is the Kings X Theatre. The actors remain on stage throughout the 70 minute play. The wonderful lighting, (designed by Benjamin Brockman), changes the scenes from the house to the bridge to the garage while the inactive actors remain still. This is very effective with no confusion. In one scene, Ahmed is lying across Dawn’s kitchen table frozen while the others move around him.
Production design, (particularly the gravel floor on the set that crunches underfoot), by Aleisa Jelbart and Sound by Ben Pierpoint enhance the production.
Playwright James Elazzi says his writing “seeks to find a balance between both cultures of Australian and his Lebanese heritage”. Elazzi’s recent plays have been sold out and he has been selected to become a member of the 2019-2020 Sydney Theatre Company’s Emerging Writers group.
His writing is bold and honest, as reflected in the street language of Omar and Ahmed. The interweaving story of Maggie and her brother Darren is cleverly orchestrated, as is the progression of the emotionally charged changes the teenage boys go through, becoming more three-dimensional at the end.
The performances are passionate and connected. Maggie Blinco is fantastic as Dawn – quiet, subtle, funny, compassionate and totally in control. Lex Marinos’ portrayal of Darren is grounded, realistic and powerful. Makhlouf and Noor give a lot to their roles; anger, anguish, alienation, the sorrow of abandonment, and underneath – they are crying out for love.
The play is relevant to the plight of so many young people today. We hear on the radio that under 18’s mostly have no facilities like homeless-safe houses or rehabs that don’t cost hundreds or thousands a week. There are grandmothers saying they are on ‘suicide watch’ as there is no help.
OMAR AND DAWN is a play worth seeing and there is much food for thought.
It plays at the Kings X Theatre, Level 3, Kings Cross Hotel, until July 27th, 2019.