Monday, March 9, 2015

Mush and Me at the Adelaide Fringe 2015

Mush and Me by Karla Crome.

Directed by Rosy Banham. Designed by Carla Goodman. Composer David Ridley. Lighting Designer Chris Withers. Presented by Holden Street Theatre Co. Inc., Lip Sink, Francesca Clark productions in collaboration with Richard Jordan productions. The Arch. Holden Street Theatres. Adelaide Fringe 2015 February 10 - March 15.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Jaz Deol as Mush and Daniaella Isaacs as Gabby

When you read the programme for Mush and Me by Karla Crome, it is easy to realize why this show resonates with such truth, such honesty in performance and such a powerful, heart-warming impact on an audience. Mush and Me, the tale of a difficult love between a Muslim man and a Jewish woman has been inspired by the true-life experiences of actress and co-creator, Daniella Isaacs. Her 102 year old Great Aunt fell in love with a non-Jewish man, but refused to marry him for fear of her family’s reaction. As a result of this decision, she remained single for the rest of her life, denying herself a family of her own and happiness with the man she loved. In a world so torn apart throughout the centuries by conflicts, waged in the name of one’s faith, Mush and Me focuses on the lives of two young people from different faiths whose natural love threatens tragic consequence.

Mush (Jaz Deol) and Me (Isaacs) work in a Call Centre for Central Office Solutions. Initial rivalry turns to attraction; attraction blossoms into love; love flounders on the rocky road of relationship. The death of Me’s father fosters reunion and reunion inspires the Muslim Mush and Jewish Gabby to confront the families in an expression of mutual love and respect for each other. It is a respect that must overcome the differences in culture and custom. Mush must respect Gabby’s decision not to eat pork. Gabby must understand Mush’s rituals of prayer and Ramadan. Both must come to the realization that they are indeed the descendants of Abraham, born of the tribe of Isaac and Ishmael.

Mush and Me at the Adelaide Fringe 2015
It seems both ironic and appropriate that the production should be staged in a Christian church that has been converted into a theatre space in suburban Hindmarsh. Carla Goodman’s simple set design is quickly converted by the actors to represent the office, a mosque, the father’s respite home and his final resting place. Against this setting, Crome’s play sparkles with humour, touches with pathos, confronts with ideas and debates with notions. Audience are left with a deeper understanding of the human spirit and a higher hope for compassion and resolution to the forces of hate that would destroy the ideals of happiness and harmony. In our contemporary world it is an enormous act of courage to live the dream of Mush and Me, but this touching one act drama pints the ideal and offers hope for those who will not and need not live a life of denial like Isaacs' Great Aunt.

As the lovers, Mush and Gabby, Deol and Isaacs are superb. Their youthful vitality, natural appeal, papable chemistry and absolute conviction in character make them a delight to watch as they travel the journey of this rollercoaster ride through love, life and religious expectation. At times, in the Arch at Holden Street, words became lost and voiceovers difficult to decipher, at times intentionally, but at others through the acoustics of the space, the speed and overlapping of the dialogue, or the hearing of this reviewer. It was a slight distraction that never overwhelmed the thought-provoking, heart-warming and revelatory impact of this relevant and illuminating performance.

For those fortunate enough to be in Adelaide during the Fringe, this is not to be missed theatre. It is another feather in the cap of the entrepreneurial Martha Lott and her selection of first class offerings at Holden Street Theatres. Mush and Me leaves one with the fervent hope that we may all live in a world free of religious intolerance and misunderstanding. Perhaps Mush and Me offers comforting assurance that the day will come when true love may conquer all.