Surpassing The Beeline
Conceived and directed by Abishek Thapar, Performers: Amsterdam Expats, Rinku Kalsy. Vaishali Nanda and Sahil Sahni. Adelaide Expats. Gabriel “DyspOra” Akon, Asha Krishnan and Elsy Wameya,. Co-commissioned by Frascati Theatre Amsterdam. The Banquet Room. Adelaide Festival Centre. OzAsia Festival October 29-31 2019
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Abishek Thapar. Director of Surpassing The Beeline|
Director of Surpassing The Beeline, Abishek Thapar greets the audience at the entry to the Banquet Room of the Festival Theatre and directs us to three large tables The tables are laden with food from six nations, corresponding to the six expats who have prepared the food for the 16 people seated around each table. During the course of the ninety minute “performance” the six “performers” move in pairs from table to table. Each pair consists of an expat from Amsterdam and one from Adelaide. I take a seat at table three where Sudanese expat Gabriel “DyspOra” Akon and Indian expat Vaishali Nanda greet us and welcome us to their traditional dishes that they have prepared for us. But to begin with their stories trace the journey from their homeland to Adelaide or Amsterdam. Gabriel’s hip hop rendition of his terrifying experience as a refugee and seven year enclosure in a camp recounts the brutality of war and the lost childhood before coming to Adelaide. Vaishali also recounts a deeply personal and initially painful experience of being left by her Dutch husband and her struggle to overcome the pain of the experience and her eventual assertion of her independence and liberation.
Expats Rinku Kalsy from India and Asha Krishnan from Malaysia tell of their adjustment to a new land and a culture so very different from their own. Food marks the stamp of their identity and Rinku is able to overcome her mother-in-law’s strict adherence to the ritual of fasting and Asha finds the answer to a discontinued teaching contract in her mother’s laksa recipe. Finally Elsy Wameyo from Nairobi in Kenya and Sahil Sahni from Inia join us to tell their stories and the role that food has played in preserving their sense of culture and identity. We continue to eat in the awareness that we are partaking of a communion of cultural identity. Rapper Gabriel’s torturous journey to a safe haven through a mother’s courage blazons awareness of a greater humanity. Elsy’s triumph over the onslaught of ignorant racism reminds us as we eat of the gift her flight from Kenya has given to an emerging multicultural nation. “If only they had listened to me in Grade 3 and at high school.”
Surpassing The Beeline has been described as Theatre in the OzAsia brochure. These immigrants are not actors, although Gabriel is a rapper and Elsy a singer. They are immigrants, storytellers with tales to tell and experiences to share and a common humanity to illuminate. Their food is not only the way to our stomach but the way to our hearts and minds and an appreciation not only of the different tastes they share but of the shared humanity, no matter the cultural difference or the colour of the skin. Surpassing the Beeline, meaning the shortest route to go back home, is through the banquet of different dishes laid before us. It is also the shortest route to our better understanding.
I savour the tastes still as I leave the Banquet Room with the stories still echoing in my mind and taking me to homes far away. These storytellers still call their birthplace home while feeding their audience a wider and richer diet of global awareness. We leave having been active participants in the appreciation of the important influence and contribution of migrants in providing their adopted land with a beeline to a recipe for fresh insight and thoughtfully prepared narratives. Abishek Thapar and his performers have offered us a wonderful meal of many flavours, richly combined to illuminate narratives that feed our understanding. Surpassing The Beeline serves up a rare taste of what it is to be a migrant in a home away from home.