Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Jul 6 – 23, 2016
Playwright: Visakesa Chandrasekaram
Director: Neil Khare
Cast: Dimitri Armatas, Neil Khare, Belinda Maree
Terrorism ranks atop our most pressing issues of the day, and we argue endlessly to find explanations and remedies for the actions of enemies that we seem never to be able to find an understanding of. Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s Forbidden is the story of one Sri Lankan woman’s personal struggle as we find her on a journey towards oblivion with a militant Tamil separatist organisation.
Chandrasekaram’s script is romantic, colourful and emotional, offering unique insight into a mystifying world. It does not make excuses for the abomination that takes place, but seeks to expand our understanding of a hidden microcosm. Where things are forbidden, there are secrets. The play may not be biographical or even factual, but it inspires a wider conception of an otherness, dissolving a threatening enigma to reach an understanding of what is always and essentially a shared humanity.
The production is a simple one, and too basic in approach for a highly imaginative text that features a non-chronological timeline and supernatural influences. Acting style tends to be overly dramatic for the very intimate space, but strong commitment by the cast helps us find meaning in the story. Each actor is clearly invested in their respective roles, but chemistry is lacking, which can make relationships confusing and events incoherent. The show needs more time to mature, in order that greater depth can be discovered in all areas and for its message to sing with better clarity.
Urmila’s reasons for adopting drastic measures are as personal as they are political. We forget the individual experiences of soldiers from all sides, choosing to conflate every disaster of war into the purely ideological. In Forbidden, the suicide bomber is given a name and her identity is exempt from simplification. To know even one sacrificed life is a powerful antithesis to the faceless apathy that we have come to accept as daily normalcy. No single work of art will solve the problems of the world, but an opportunity to broaden minds exists in every creation, and every bit of wisdom gained is an existence grown stronger.