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Review: THE GODS OF STRANGERS at Northern Festival Centre, Port Pirie

Review: THE GODS OF STRANGERS at Northern Festival Centre, Port Pirie Reviewed by Pam Watts, Saturday 10th November 2018.

The Gods of Strangers is, indeed, a large-scale drama exploring the migrant experience in post-war Australia. I was privileged to attend the premiere in Port Pirie, which is the historical setting for this play.

The State Theatre Company of South Australia's Resident Artist, Elena Carapetis, was funded by Country Arts South Australia, to create and develop the script. Drawing on her own heritage as a Greek-Cypriot descendent, and also that of Italian migrants, she has provided an historically based script, with the setting in rural Port Pirie.

This play offers a beautiful voice to our state's migrant population who created the multi-cultural heritage we enjoy as contemporary Australians. It is warm, funny, and engaging, with a dramatic undercurrent, creating familiar memories for the senior audience and resonating with the younger audience via stories from our current migrants seeking shelter and a place to belong.

The performance showcases Geordie Brookman's talent for directing, particularly when developing the synergy between all of the performance elements to create a space of focus. This trilingual performance, with sections of subtitles, evolves smoothly as the talented cast deliver this absorbing story. The opening in Port Pirie acknowledged the assistance from Country Arts S. A., as the majority of the audience was from the local Greek and Italian communities. There was a hearty standing ovation at the end of this performance, followed by a celebratory supper, typical of the Greek and Italian community.

The cast of six: Renato Musolino, Eugenia Fragos, Deborah Galanos, Elizabeth Hay, Dina Panozzo, and Philippos Ziakas, created convincing, well-developed characters that transported us through intergenerational culture, ideas, and beliefs. The dialogue, in Greek and Italian, is clear and fluent, although the Molfettese dialect (from Molfetta) that the original migrants to Port Pirie spoke, was not attempted. This was discussed by members of the audience around me and I did feel it created a small but significant loss of identity.

Victoria Lamb's moveable set worked beautifully, allowing for interpretation of scenic concepts. Gavin Norris's lighting design makes full use of this set and gives life to every scene from hot daylight to softer warm evenings. Olivia Freear's costumes pay due homage to period and sensitivity to the characters through fabrics, style, and colour. Original music for the production was composed by Hilary Kleinig, who is also the cellist with the Zephyr Quartet. This is an aesthetically pleasing journey from scene to scene.

The State Theatre Company has created a memorable work that will be of value for many generations to come. Be sure you don't miss the performances in Adelaide at the Dunstan Playhouse in the Adelaide Festival Centre, from 14th November to 2nd December.

From This Author - Barry Lenny

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