Review: Lose To Win (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 18 – 29, 2022
Writer: Mandela Mathia
Director: Jessica Arthur
Cast: Mandela Mathia
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Lose to Win is an autobiographical one-man show, in the most classic sense. Mandela Mathia is on stage  alone, for just over an hour, performing a piece written by himself, to tell the story of his life hitherto. From his birth in South Sudan, and his hazardous days in Egypt as an adolescent orphan, to his early years as a refugee in Australia, Mathia provides first-hand accounts of an eventful journey, that sees him travel great distances for safe harbour.

It is a sensitively constructed work, slightly too polite in approach perhaps, but certainly rich with what it conveys. Lose to Win wishes to function as a bridge, to create understanding for immigrant communities, in an Australia that is often unkind to people who are not white. Mathia might come across inevitably as the model citizen typical of presentations like these, but under the direction of Jessica Arthur, there is plentiful humour and charm to encounter, in a production careful to sidestep traumatic tropes, in favour of something altogether more joyful and modern.

Helping to provide visual variety, is Kate Baldwin’s imaginative lighting design, surprising us with colours and angles that transform a simple stage, into cleverly configurated performance spaces. Sounds by Rose Mulcare are integral in helping us navigate the swiftly changing moods of the show, effortlessly sustaining our attention throughout.

Mathia’s unmistakeable sincerity is at the centre of Lose to Win, urging a connection where we have become used to fracture and alienation. Disunity benefits the rich and powerful. Fear has become a mechanism that can be exploited for private gains, that will only exacerbate the rifts between us. We need to come to a place, where our neighbours’ successes are not considered to be taking anything anyway from us. We are abundant, we only need to embrace generosity.