Told through the lens of a timeless protagonist, 'Last Year's Eve' is a fictional tale which sets to humanise the experience of refugees.
Inspired by his own family's immigration and hardship, creator Zac Kazepis underwent a process of immersing himself in the real-life stories of displaced persons.
“The show itself is a fictional story, reinterpreted and based on real events covering the different waves of migration across Australian history, brought together through the lens of the protagonist, Hugo,” Zac says.
“I did a lot of research when I first wrote the show, which was informed by speaking with people from different refugee groups, but also my own family experience. I'm first generation Greek. My grandparents and father were born in Greece, and came over during the '60s in that principal wave. That's always been a part of my life, and their experiences helped inform the work.”
Hugo, played by Zac on stage, was separated from his homeland as a child, tying in with the ongoing refugee crisis by reflecting experiences universally relatable to those impacted by war and famine.
“One of the real aims of this show is that I really wanted to, before trying to make an overt political statement, examine what the concept of being an outsider is. To me, that's a universal human experience. The story of displaced people is one of the oldest stories there is. The message is brought through from this individual character's experience. I want the audience to see a person, which I think is really what's missing from the whole debate.
“Hugo is a person with flaws, so he's not just a token for a message that I'm trying to project. What I try to do in this show is to communicate something that's deeper, that has a deep human message,” Zac says.
As a narrative, 'Last Year's Eve' bends the boundaries of time and space to depict the full spectrum of Hugo's journey. Zac tells, “The show flicks between the past and present, in which Hugo's waiting to see through his last night before leaving the country, his experiences in Australia in the past, waiting in refugee camps as a child, and losing family. It's never overtly said where Hugo is specifically from, there are things that reference it, though there are cues.”
The production reflects upon the state of the media, and the representation of refugees in the public eye.
“It becomes white noise at a certain point. The messaging of the media is all the same. The objective of the show is to remind people of their humanity. I think, one thing that I really have hoped to do with this show, is to be able to create and tell a story with which someone who is uninformed can come in and see that even though these characters are from another place, they can see someone who is more or less just like themselves, in these key human ways.”
“Visually, my inspirations have come a lot from the book by Sean Tan, 'The Arrival'. Some of the visual aspects of that book inspired the work early on. In terms of staging, it's simple. It's me with a suitcase full of Hugo's belongings, which are all very specific to his character... Between past and present, Hugo's experiences, and the set, become dreamlike.
“It's grounded in naturalism, but with strong abstractions to represent the dream states, the inner child. This is reflected in the lighting design, sound, and performance. I'm a music composer and sound designer, so the music sets the underscore to the changing scenes.”
'Last Year's Eve' plays Mainstage at Bakehouse Theatre 11-16 March.