Left – Camilla Ah Kin (front) and Alice Ansara. Cover – (l-r) Doris Younane, Sheridan Harbridge, Camilla Ah Kin, Alice Ansara. Photos – Brett Boardman
Jump For Jordan is amazing. Seriously, it is so amazing. As soon as it was over, I texted a bunch of my friends and was like, “you guys, I just saw this show and I can’t even tell you how good it was. You must all come and see it.” That goes for you too, gentle reader. This show is incredible. It is complicated and funny and bold and tragic and just so, so, SO good.
The show follows Sophia (Alice Ansara), the prodigal daughter of a family who have emigrated from Amman to Sydney. An aspiring archaeologist, she was disowned by her mother Mara (Doris Younane) after moving out of home while still unmarried to live closer to her university with her flatmate Samantha (Anna Houston), who is, unbeknownst to Sophia's family, now a bit more than a flatmate. But Sophia’s sister Loren (Sheridan Harbridge) is getting married, and so Sophia is called back home to help deal with her visiting aunt Azza (Camilla Ah Kin), who has come from Jordan for the wedding. As Sophia juggles the lies she tells her family with the lies they tell each other and the lies she tells herself, she comes face to face with a past and a cultural heritage she both understands and does not understand, loves and loathes. Fantasy, history and memory blend in this fascinating look at the liminal position of the second-generation Australian.
Alice Ansara is revelatory as Sophia, but I would be doing the show a disservice if I suggested that the whole show belongs to her. Sophia’s is not the only arc. What I loved most about this show was that it was populated with brave, bold, prickly and complex female characters. Sophia, the closeted lesbian desperately trying to explain the cultural significance of her Jordanian family to a partner who does not understand why she clings to people who have refused to have anything to do with her for years, is a brilliant character, but she is not the show’s only brilliant character. Mara could have been totally unlikeable, but Doris Younane imbues her with a heartbreaking reservoir of vulnerability and rage. She did not want to come to Australia, and when she followed her husband Sahir (Sal Sharah), she found that she hated it. But she could not leave, because where would she go? Mara, clinging to conservative tradition while living in the Sydney suburbs, is a fascinating contrast to her sister Azza, her educated and more progressive sister visiting from Amman. Azza does not speak any English, and the scenes where Mara, the show’s only bilingual character, is forced to act as a linguistic go-between are fascinating. Additionally, the scene towards the end where Azza and Sophia finally overcome their language barrier and have a conversation is completely brilliant. I had tears running down my face.
Loren could have been a caricature – and indeed, I was initially a bit worried that Sheridan Harbridge’s performance was, while hilarious, leading the character in that direction – but the scenes in the second half of the play ensure this does not happen, teasing out nuanced and surprising depths. Similarly, Sophia’s girlfriend Sam has a story of her own – never having been closeted, she is forced to work out whether she can cope with being locked out of so much of Sophia’s world. It is such a treat to have a play populated with such deliciously complex and multi-dimensional female characters, particularly when the roles are all performed so well.
If I haven’t made it clear enough, Jump For Jordan is an absolutely brilliant play. I love shows like this one – shows that take place on a small scale, like the domestic, but have a broader resonance. It is a fascinating window into culture and tradition and femininity and language and memory. Donna Abela’s script thoroughly deserved to win the 2013 Griffin Award, and Iain Sinclair has realised it wonderfully on the stage.
Go and see this play. I laughed. I cried. And I will definitely be going to see it again. Wonderful, wonderful theatre.
Griffin Theatre Company presents
Jump for Jordan
by Donna Abela
Directed by Iain Sinclair
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 14 February - 29 March 2014
Tickets: $49 – $38
Bookings: 02 9361 3817 | www.griffintheatre.com.au