In her artist statement on her website, Theatre-maker/Director Talya Chalef writes, “I find myself drawn to themes of cultural geography, social justice, memory, history and identity within my work”.
Currently based in New York, Chalef produced Eyton Rd few years following her Graduate Animateuring (theatre-making) program at the VCA in 2004, which touches on the above themes.
Eyton Rd is a collision of artistic, experimental and wit that weaves together personal stories of identity, displacement, diaspora and social memory. Chosen aptly, the venue at La Mama, in Carlton (Melbourne), allows the intimacy of the performance to invite the audience for a closer and more cherished experience.
In this personal journey, Chalef collaborates with Andrew Gray (portrayed by Domenico de Clario) to twine their stories of immigration to Australia.
Following her European and South African tour in search of her Jewish and African remnants, Chalef invites the audience into her family story. She employs photographs (taken during the tour) and props to explore her complex history spanning the holocaust, apartheid South Africa and finally the search for 'home' in Australia.
Domenico de Clario, whose family immigrated to Australia in 1956, shares his similar stories. His tells of an Italian family that arrived on a boat in Australia with few possessions and big hope for a better life.
In conjunction with a live piano, the performers cleverly utilise, the set, live sculptures and their bodies to project images of distant memories of their family history.
The show opens with Chalef’s story, where she belts out a melancholic tune from the piano over her speech. Through the juxtaposed imagery, sound and movement, the members of the audience learn the stories that shape Chalef and de Clario's family’s presence in Africa, Europe and Australia.
I particularly found the action of building a card house while crouched in the centre of the stage a poignant metaphor for the entire performance. While the performers’ deeper emotion seemed somewhat curbed, the level of concentration and care during this particular sequence depicted the delicate process that is involved in rebuilding a person’s identity and ultimately home.
While some areas of Eyton Rd presented on a first timer level, I do believe that the subject matter of the performance is incredibly important in the society and hopefully in the future, following her Masters Playwrighting qualification with Columbia University and more industry experience, Chalef will produce an even stronger version of Eyton Rd.
Eyton Rd premiered at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne before it toured to the 'Infecting the City Festival' in Cape Town in February 2009.
Devised by Talya Chalef in collaboration with Domenico De Clario.
Performers: Talya Chalef & Andrew Gray
Dramaturge: Kelly Sommes
Lighting Design: Bronwyn Pringle
Stage Manager: Pippa Wright
Sound Design: Jared Davis
Graphic Design: Gina Flash
Photo Credits: Sean Wilson & Bronwyn Pringle
Chalef's new production titled L'Chaim premiered at Columbia University - Horace Mann Theatre, New York in April 2013
“So many plays are fine existing on the page ... It is a magnificently theatrical
hole-in-the-soul filling, wonder of a play that must be given breath" Taylor Mac
Learn more about Talya Chalef www.talyachalef.com