This is a story without an end. No, it’s two stories, one that’s sad because its protagonist takes a dubious path knowing that with it goes his integrity and the other because the odds are so against success and a life worth living for a young woman who deserves a chance.
Borders by Henry Naylor won both the Best of Edinburgh and Fringe First Awards and is now showing at The Studio at Holden Street Theatres.
Sebastian (Graham O’Mara) an aspiring photo journalist of war zones is monitored and helped by an influential newspaper man called Messenger, who recognises his talent and gives him a chance. It’s the beginning of success but, breaking from Messenger’s benign influence, he abandons his aspirations for honest hard-hitting journalism and finds lucrative fame elsewhere – photographing the star of the moment or any other big money assignments, getting his pictures out before others of the paparazzi and catering to the hungry high-paying media. Demoted Messenger growls his disapproval.
Running parallel to that story is the one of the young woman who prefers to be called Nameless (Avital Lvova). Living in Syria under Osama bin Laden’s regime, the talented artist does not see much of a future for herself or for anyone else in that repressive and male dominated country and gradually she begins to rebel in the only way she can, by stealthily painting graffiti at night wherever she can find an empty wall or defacing pictures of bin Laden, often alone and sometimes with a male accomplice, a similar rebel. There is no romance here, just a passionate aim to show that there is rebellion and that its alive and fighting. She is terrified of the vision she has of the handsome man without charisma, dressed in cream robes and on a black horse, endlessly claiming that the west is decadent – bin Laden, the world’s most tedious terrorist, she says. It means death if she is caught and yet her fear, which is grindingly stressful, is overcome by her need to rebel. In a moment of mind shattering terror and anger, she seeks “love” of her fellow activist and becomes pregnant.
We are witnessing two stories, each nothing to do with the other and yet surely knowing that at some point there would be contact. No spoilers here but the build up to the climax is a joy to behold with two actors showing us how it’s done. Sebastian is a clever character study which we recognise when Graham O’Mara brings to mind young men we know, men with honest youthful aspirations who gradually meld into men who’ve taken the easy way, the corrupt way, to success. The way he walks, talks, nuances of tone, facial expressions and the words themselves, without actually saying so, belie the confidence of this clever young man and tell us that, beneath the seemingly relaxed man, growling Messenger is lurking.
As for Nameless, her growing resolve, determination and courage grapples the audience and turns our attention away from Sebastian’s gloss to what we see and read when we peruse “the immigrant problem.” We like this girl, we like her gutsy spirit and we see her desperation and fear with growing apprehension. Avital Lvova is terrific to watch and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to see this fine actress in this role.
“Fringe” in this context means the outer edge or margin to the Festival soon to start. We are fortunate to have a Festival of Arts with shows like this on its fringe. The Festival itself has much (in more ways than one) to live up to.
Gilded Balloon and Redbeard Theatre in association with Holden Street Theatres presents
by Henry Naylor
Director Michael Cabot
Venue: Holden Street Theatres | 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh SA
Dates: 13 Feb – 18 March 2018
Tickets: $17 - $28
Bookings: 08 8225 8888 | holdenstreettheatres.com