Although arriving from different homelands, at different stages of their lives, for different reasons, all seven storytellers have one thing in common: their dream neighbourhood.
Presented by La Boite and Multicultural Australia, in association with Empire Theatres, 'The Neighbourhood' follows seven very different (but then, not so different) stories of individuals who are finding their place in the world through different art forms. Written and co-created by the storytellers themselves, the work follows real-life journeys from the experience of fleeing homelands, to seeing refuge and creating, fostering and discovering a new community (or neighbourhood) in Australia.
Meet Nima, Aurora, Naavi, Anisa, Cieavash, Amer and Matt, the ‘storytellers’. The seven of them spend the evening dancing, rapping, playing, singing, acting, and storytelling around a platform that circles the centre of the room. With nothing more than an eclectic collection of musical instruments, their stories wind their way around the room, sparking laughter, wonder, and emotion in a raw and honest answer to the question, ‘Where are you from?’
This is no ordinary show, however. With the likes of Matt (composer and multi-instrumentalist) and Cieavash (musician who has pursued learning traditional Persian classical instruments) leading the musical element of the show, there’s a good chance that you’ll see instruments and hear sounds you’ve never heard of before, yet the storytellers embrace it as it takes their minds back to their roots. Accompanied by the powerful words of poet Anisa and performer Aurora, you’ll be mesmerised by their captivating expressions of what has been and what is, and their plea for what they hope will be. You’ll then be dazzled as Naavi (body movement artist) twirls through modern adaptations of traditional Indian dance, followed by Nima who, in a ‘hold-nothing-back’ hip hop performance, will remind you of the heartache that comes with wishing you were something or someone else. Finally, Amer recounts his near-death experiences in an enthralling and bold performance, as he is reminded about just how valuable life is.
Entering the theatre, you’ll notice the wide range of people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, sitting alongside you. The performance is a reminder that each individual is a world, each with a story to tell and a unique way of telling it. Coming away from it, you have a new sense of the word ‘home’, as you’re reminded of how different people perceive, seek, and long for a ‘neighbourhood’ to belong in, one with bicycle paths and the smells of home cooking and neighbourly conversations over the back fence. It’s a performance unlike any other, that gives a voice to people who may be voiceless, and brings light to issues that have been taboo for too long, in a way that brings people together rather than forces them apart, through storytelling.
Storytelling has been a way of connecting people, communities and cultures for thousands of years, and this 2020 rendition of the art is an ode to the storytellers before us, and an introduction to the future of storytelling. Despite who you are, where you’re from, and where you call ‘home’, stories will be something that brings us together, and 'The Neighbourhood' is a beautiful example of this.
It’s honest, authentic, and deeply moving, imbued with a sense of hope, power and recognition.
'The Neighbourhood' is on at La Boite Theatre until 29 February.