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March 26, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Two Brothers

By Hannie Rayson
Directed by Bruce Phillips
Circa until April 21
Concessions one hour before $18
04 801 7992

It’s great to see a play at Circa that packs a political punch. Two Brothers takes aim at Australia’s refugee policy (or lack thereof) by examining the personal relationship between two men embroiled in the crisis caused when a refugee sail boat bound for Australia goes down, killing all but one Iraqi man.

The two brothers of the title are James ‘Eggs’ Benedict (Roger Oakley) who is the Minister for Home Affairs with ambitions to be the Prime Minister. He frequently comes to blows with his brother, Tom Benedict (Nick Blake), an advocate for refugees. The story opens on Christmas Day, where James tells Tom that he is going to oust the current PM, and tries to buy his silence by offering him a job at UNESCO. This is the first of many times we see James’ controlling, manipulative style. When Eggs receives a mysterious phone call from his son, present on a Navy ship, the story spins into action.

The ensemble cast all deliver strong performances. Fiona Benedict (Jennifer Ludlam) gutsily expresses the difficult position of being a politician’s wife, whilst grieving for her dead son. Lachlan Benedict (Arthur Meek) portrays a young Aussie, questioning everything taught to him by his politician father, and his grammar school education.

Tom Benedict, (Nick Blake) once strong in his political convictions is tested when it comes to harming his own son Harry Benedict (a troubled Martyn Wood). James Ashcroft plays a very believable Iraqi Hazim Al Ayad, and elicits compassion from the audience when he speaks of his dead family.

The play is intricate, and each scene seeks not just to further the plot, but to deepen our understanding of these characters, whilst continuing with the political debate. The contrary viewpoint is raised but never with much credibility; as Lachlan notes “they [refugees] don’t belong here, they don’t fit in, if you let them in then everything that’s good about this country goes up shit creek.” In the end, the play falls firmly on the side of Tom, who tries to uncover the truth of what happened when the boat sank, and aims to get residency for the sole survivor Hassim. He believes that anyone is entitled to a life, free from persecution. Having Hassim holed up for three years whilst checking his status is James’ idea of discouraging refugees from coming to Australia, whereas for Tom it is inhumane. This is clearly what we are supposed to agree with, and with Roger Oakley’s excellent acting as James, he comes across as a true bastard.

The play is wholly naturalistic, bar one scene at the start presented out of order. However, since the play aims to expose prejudice inherent in the political workings of Australia, the style works very well. The director noted that “we need theatre to provoke us occasionally” (emphasis added). Only occasionally? Please Circa, more political theatre that tackles real issues!


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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