Arafat In Therapy (Jeremie Bracka)

brackaVenue: NIDA Parade Theatres (Kensington NSW), Jul 10 – 14, 2013
Playwright: Jeremie Bracka
Director: Pip Mushin
Actor: Jeremie Bracka
Music: Tomi Kalinski

Theatre review
Of course one gets trepidatious about the prospect of seeing an Australian Jewish actor tackling the role of Yasser Arafat as the show’s title would suggest, not knowing whether it would be an exercise of flaccid diplomacy, or disturbing controversy. Fortunately and very quickly into the performance, it does become clear that Bracka does not play Arafat for the entire duration, but prides himself on taking on a multitude of roles, switching at lightning speed between ages, accents and nationalities with extraordinary savvy and confidence. The biggest laughs, and there are many, come from Bracka’s uncanny ability at mimicking distinctive characteristics of familiar archetypes. He approaches all his characters with generosity and affection, which frees the audience into states of joyous laughter in spite of the frequently sensitive contexts.

Mushin’s direction excels at creating clear demarcations between Bracka’s many different characters. The audience is never left unsure about who is speaking, even though no costume changes or dramatic lighting effects are used. Careful and purposeful design with the actor’s positions, gestures and voice elevate this one-man show into a fast-moving, and thoroughly entertaining romp through many different times and spaces. The subtle, restrained use of music is cleverly utilised, and adds to comedic and dramatic effect whenever it is introduced. Sound in the new NIDA theatre is simply splendid. The set however, could probably add more to the show. The three pieces of furniture are sometimes distracting, and in fact all rather ugly. Bracka is uncomfortable sitting on the castor wheeled table, and is visibly distressed when having to move the items to their fluorescent marked spots.

It is noteworthy that the production does work for general Australian theatregoers even though it is concerned with sociopolitical events in Israel and the Middle East. A good understanding of those histories and conflicts would probably allow a greater insight into the nuances of the show, but its structure and plot are crafted well enough so that less aware  audiences would still enjoy every minute of this fascinating performance by a very funny Aussie.