BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE FRINGE 2015: MUSH AND ME Is a Personal Look at a Sensitive Subject
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Wednesday 11th February 2015
In a call centre, where they are contacting companies to offer insurance on electronic office equipment, we first find a young man talking to clients. Shortly after, a young woman enters, clearly a little confused and becoming somewhat annoyed as she has no idea who he is, what he is doing there, and why he sitting is at her friend's desk. The initial interchange between these to strangers is rather frosty on her side, and overly brash, loud, and showy on his. This is not a good start to their working relationship and does not bode well for the future. Such is the beginning of Mush and Me, giving little indication of the complexity of what is to follow as their time working together unfolds.
He directs her to an email that explains all. Management in its ignorance, has decided that putting their two most effective salespeople at adjacent desks is a good way to generate competition and, presumably, higher sales. Managements, in general, are seldom known for making good decisions of which their staff approves. Her anger redirects towards those at the top, but she is still not happy at losing her previous workmate and being stuck with a stranger. As they talk, between canvassing calls, things do calm a little and they tell a little of who they are and their ambitions.
There is another source of tension, though, as Gabby is Jewish and, at 24, stills lives at home with her family, and Mushtaq is the same age and from a large Muslim family. More accurately, her family is Jewish and, although she says that she does not believe in a god, she goes through the motions of Jewish life and rituals so as not to upset her parents. He, on the other hand, was something of a tearaway when young but, after spending time with an uncle, found his god and became a devout follower of Islam.
Initially, though, we find them agreeing to disagree, accepting that they have to work at adjacent desks and do their jobs. As we see them talking to their potential customers we discover the many tricks of the trade that they each use to achieve a sale and, if you have ever had a call from a telemarketer, you will find this section filled with hilariously devious antics.
Over time, they talk about their lives and approaches to religion, and their situation becomes friendlier until, against all odds, the pair fall in love. Daniella Isaacs and Jaz Deol are superb in the roles of Gabby and Mush, gradually removing their masks and lowering their barriers, exposing more of their thoughts, beliefs and feelings to one another. Their opposing religions, though, complicate their love story, threatening to come between then, ending their romance.
The story was inspired by the 102 year old Great Aunt of Daniella Isaacs, who fell for a Christian boy in her youth, but called it off, and remained single thereafter. With a script by Karla Crome, from a concept jointly developed by Isaacs and director, Rosy Banham, this is a beautifully sensitive exploration of a range of social, personal, and religious influences on a relationship. It poses the question of which is more important, family, religion, personal beliefs, work, your own life, love, or any of the other things that push and pull people around.
There is no bludgeoning of the audience with any one viewpoint. We are not being convinced to agree with any fixed idea. We are being asked to ponder these questions for ourselves and, in the end, there is no one answer. These vast questions are posed so very eloquently through the two totally believable performances subtly bringing out the issues as we become lost in the developing relationship and waiting tentatively to see what the final outcome will be.
This is going to be one of those plays that are talked about long after they have gone, so make an effort to see it while you can.