Adelaide Fringe 2011
A group of Jewish migrants in the mid-80s come to grips with living in New Zealand. Premiere season. Dir Dushyant Kumar. Runs until 8th March.
In the tiny space of Nexus Gallery, young actor Yael Gezentsvey is telling a universal story. It is a story about acceptance, about yearning, about culture and above all, family. Working from her mother’s script, Desiree Gezentsvey, Yael single-handedly illustrates a collection of characters as they struggle with living in New Zealand after emigrating from elsewhere, in particular the USSR. The groups are bonded by blood, Judaism and a physical and emotional yearning for their home and the people left behind. The characters are colourful but true, their humour and culture are lovingly brought to life by both script and actor. Struggles with assimilating into New Zealand culture are not caricatured, but are subtle, funny and deadly accurate.
It’s clear that Yael Gezentsvey is a uniquely talented actor. To be able to swap so effortlessly between roles without confusing either herself or the audience is a talent itself, but the real skill lies in her ability to embody the roles so completely, with the type of abandon one associates with a far more experienced, older actor. Men, women, children, old, young, are each given their own identities, idiosyncrasies, accents and mannerisms that make them unique and instantly recognisable.
The script too, written with heart, tragedy and a fair balance of true comedy, is remarkable. It veers between calamity and wit so deftly, and the characters are so well drawn, it feels and rings so true. And of course, Gezentsvey’s script is partly from her own personal experiences as a Jewish Venuzualan woman married to a Russian Jew, both now living in New Zealand. It feels personal and raw, emotional and also very, very well written.
There is not much of a set, just a simple chair and a few glasses, and this really works to Yael’s advantage, for she is able to express the most complex of emotions with the simplest of gestures. There are no stage managers, or other actors, or fly in screens to break the spell of such a bare, riveting performance. The simple relationship of one woman and one director seems to have worked well, and director Dushyant Kumar, has easily made this show cohesive and easy to follow.
Ultimately, this isn’t a show just for migrants or the displaced, this is a story universal to the human yearning to survival and happiness, for belonging and for family.