Left – Rohan Mirchandaney. Cover – Sonya Suares, Sahil Saluja, Rohan Mirchandaney. Photos – Jeff Busby
“Follow the beat of the city and your life never goes off-key” but for three Indian migrants, who just can’t get the city’s rhythm right, Rashma N. Kalsie’s play, Melbourne Talam, dissects their plight in vivid, authentic detail.
The work first appeared in the Cybec Electric 2016 reading series, and after subsequent developments, has been programmed as part of this year’s, MTC’s Education Season.
The playwright’s intention was to “have the city itself as a living character with many faces.” Highlighting contemporary social issues, inspired by real-life stories involving Indians, and their struggle with assimilation, alienation, identity, the weight of cultural and family expectations and the disparity between dreams and reality.
Melbourne teasingly promises hope, success and particularly in Sonali’s case, re-invention. Yet cruelly, fails to deliver.
It’s bleak. It’s brilliant.
And although it’s their stories on stage, the themes are universal and completely relatable.
Our protagonists are a 19 year-old student, Jasminder (Rohan Mirchandaney), an incredibly self-critical, devout Sikh. 24 year-old Poornachandra (Sahil Saluja), who works in IT and is undeniably homesick. And 29 year-old, Sonali (Sonya Suares), a flawed, vain, extravagant character, who’s been ostracised by her wealthy family back home for a failed marriage. She drinks to escape the loneliness, has an obvious disdain for other Indians, and is adamant that Melbourne is the city of her soul.
Under Petra Kalive’s direction, all the cast deliver exceptionally nuanced and poignant performances. Even when inhibiting minor characters (with all actors playing multiple roles), their accents, hand gestures, facial expressions and posture (aided only by minimal costume changes and props) is completely convincing.
As is the set design by Andrew Bailey and Scenic Artist, Tansy Elso – who together, have painstakingly recreated a train platform at Flagstaff Station. The attention to detail is astounding – with the four-tone colour palette, perfectly capturing the worn and tired look of the station and commuters, alike. From where I was sitting, I could see the grime and grit of the platform, and sense that musty dank smell, you associate with underground stations.
Darius Kedros’s Sound Design and Rachel Burke’s Lighting Design, are also to be commended. Ingeniously and effectively transporting you to various locations, whilst enhancing the overall storytelling and theatre experience, itself.
Some parts are difficult to watch because of the confronting realism. Others are joyous, with the pure rhythm and entertainment of Bollywood dancing. And then there are glimpses of dark comedy.
Our relationship as an audience to the material is vital in allowing us to empathise with the characters and connect. But equally important, is this diversity on our stages.
Melbourne Theatre Company
by Rashma N. Kalsie
Directed by Petra Kalive
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Dates: 5 – 20 May 2017
Bookings: mtc.com.au | 03 8688 0800