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All the Blood and All the water is a drama reactively created out of a response to the Cronulla riots in 2005 in which Muslims and Aussies kicked nine types of shit out of each other because someone apparently didn’t like cricket quite enough.
Angel (Muslim, but born in Oz) and Ryder (white Australian) protagonize; love interests Lola and Honey, hover around them; Aziz is Angel’s angry older cousin; his father is a traumatised Iraqi (we are led to suppose) who has hallucinations. Jax, the (actually very well-played) convict older brother is a vicious simplistic thug (think Romper Stomper crossed with Edward Norton in American History X but with the ability to name all the McDonalds burger ingredients) and proves a parallel for Aziz in anger terms, and his foil, in racial terms. The stage is set for a brilliant dissection of modern Australian racial integration issues, often overlooked on the world stage –
The big problem is, All the Blood and All the Water is itself completely racist and ridden with sterteotypes to the edge of finger-pointing hilarity.
For example, Aziz, a white track-suited, blinged up gleaming hair-gel commercial of a man, struts about as though he’s carrying the weight of the world in his trousers. He spends the first half of the play telling all who will listen that Australian people are ‘trouble’ and to stick with family.
Were it not for two incongruous monologues he delivers at the faces of his fellow cast members, wishing Australia were judged just as much his home as non Muslims, you’d be forgiven for thinking he can’t stand Australia so much it’s amazing he even turned up on stage rather than fled the country.
Baba, Angel’s dad – basically King Lear getting drunk in someone’s front room, doesn’t help either. In scenes with Angel, Baba and Aziz all together, the dialogue descends into repetitions of the word “Shukran” (Arabic for ‘Thank you’) – evidence that the writer Suzie Miller probably only looked up this one Arabic word in an effort to create ‘realism’ and racial accuracy.
The four young characters Ryder, Lola, Angel and Honey are basically every Australian brand name on legs. Their dialogue is so incessantly and thickly fraught with Australianisms that you end up wondering if a) Australia is so utterly cultureless that Vegemite, Sportsgirl, Maccas, AC/DC, Toohey’s, walking around in fluffy cotton and “going to the beach” are the only things that differentiate this country from an empty desert, which I know for a fact is untrue, or b) the writer is worried you might suddenly forget you’re in Australia, and would hate to think you won’t even be able to find your way back to the car after the show’s done. The votes are in, and it’s actually secret answer c) Miller didn’t like wordprocessing, and made the entire play out of re-used adverts stuck to paper like an extortion note. This limited the vocab heavily to clothing, food and cars. For a humourous example of what oversaturated Aussie talk can sound like, skip to the culminating moments in this fine entry from the 2008 Tropfest short film festival:
Anyway, tensions heat up as it turns out the voices dear old dad Baba is hearing, presumed by Angel to be fabrications, are in fact the real life voices of Lola and Honey as they unwittingly abuse Angel’s dad without realising he’s related to Angel, until he catches them in his house. How they get there is a mystery. Presumably they surfed their way in on a wave of Vegemite whilst saying ‘Bonza’. Or whatever.
Jax, the convict, is actually a the only believable and enjoyable character. In prison at the beginning of the play he takes turns begging his family to visit him via phone, then roars as soon as they decline. On the outside he represents the socially maladjusted anger-complex that modern prison systems almost seem to be designed to produce (see Foucault.) Scenes with his presence are immediately imbued with humour and fairly well-observed REAL tension. You are forever worried he might suddenly break from the scripted action and dive into the audience stabbing all and sundry with a pen he had hidden in his shoe.
As the play builds he proves stupid, racist, simplistic and a source of weapons. So when he ends up geting knifed, probably to death, by Aziz in the culminating moments of the play, the words ‘Good’ and ‘Finally’ run through the audience’s head, thereby anulling any decrying of violence, and making us all wonder quite what all the fuss is about.
Edward Albee, of Who is afraid of Virginia Wolf fame (and not too much else), is on record as saying “Everyone should see this play.” However, after noting that Albee workshopped this play with Miller, one can’t help but recall Jonathan Ross’ brilliant prank when he proclaimed Batman and Robin ‘The Greatest Movie of All Time’ just so his name would appear on the poster.
All the Blood and All the water runs til mid-May 2008. Real life racial tensions, it must be said, run a little deeper.
There’s a fascinating play doing the rounds in London at the moment, courtesy of the Arcola Theatre in East London. The play, called The Blind, by Maurice Maeterlinck, is about blind people.
This production, by up and coming director Jack McNamara (the man behind Don Delillo’s Valparaiso’s UK premiere in 2006) also features an entirely blind cast.
In a play that, as many critics put it, scopes the restrictions and limitations we all face or impose/have imposed on ouselves in society, or even microcosmically within small groups, the live rendering of the action with real-life blind people powerfully reflects the divide between characters, as well as the divide between audience and actors. By definition, the audience can see – well, in terms of their role, maybe some of them ARE blind.
However, one thing is certain – the “fourth wall” between stage and seat is made almost palpable by the fact that as you stare into the actor’s space, no-one is staring back.
Or if they are, they wouldn’t know it.
Here’s a piece that ran on ABC in Australia featuring interviews with McNamara and Tim Gebbels.
The Blind is playing at The Arcola, London.