Fringe Review: Stories That Must Be Heard

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By Wanling Liu & Ivan Skawronski


Stories That Must Be Heard blows the audience away with a unique blend of circus, poetry, and classical music, immersing them in the full gamut of emotions and experiences associated with the plight of detained refugees. It is a captivating exploration of despair and hope, presented with the sublime skills of an extremely talented ensemble.

The production consists of two performances. Truth in the Cage presents a mesmerising song cycle for acrobatic soprano which sets the scene of asylum seekers asking for sanctuary but being put in a cage. The audience is witness to a journey of despair and defiance, involving suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, separation from family, witnessing of tragedies, and insanity caused by isolation.

LIMBO is a groundbreaking sonata, delivered by an acrobatic violinist and her acrobat partner in a spectacle that dazzles the senses and stirs the soul. Through a sensational fusion of genres, it creatively expresses emotions of a refugee lamenting 9 years of life lost in limbo and mocks the back-pedalling and absurdity in migration policy decision-making. Through lyrical and expressive delivery, it also depicts moments of the refugee seeking comfort and solace in the moon, being lost in mental anguish that borders on insanity, and regaining hope amidst despair.

Both performances excelled at what they set out to achieve, thrilling audiences while making it easy for them to empathise with authentic stories, and inspiring them with the motif of hope as one of the greatest weapons against oppression. Truth in the Cage presents the words and lived experience of Iranian poet, asylum seeker and detainee Mohammad Ali Maleki, using a selection of his poems written within Manus Island detention centre when he was 5 years into his incarceration. The emotions evoked by LIMBO epitomise the feelings of anger, escape, fantasy and frustration that were collectively experienced by refugees detained at Melbourne Park Hotel in 2021 after many prior years of imprisonment and isolation.

In this show, a series of deep thoughts are presented in great emotional detail, and through these, stories of asylum seekers and detainees are told, along with the many horrors they have experienced and the psychological effects inflicted upon them. Despite the focus on asylum seekers, the stories are enlightening and meaningful in the wider context of mental health. Mental health battles are played out metaphorically on stage in the form of gripping physical confrontations. The imagery presented throughout both shows effectively facilitates the understanding of complex mental health struggles. Elements of self-compassion, mindfulness, self-reflection and self-talk as coping strategies are seamlessly woven into the performances, showcasing powerful human resilience in battling with formidable mental health issues.

This astonishingly powerful production is a collaboration of a deeply trusting and interconnected team, with each member an absolute master in their own craft. The performance in its entirety is a winner in almost every track, from its compositional calibre, quality of circus, opera and music delivery, to its authenticity, originality, advocacy…

Words are simply not enough to describe it.
Easiest standing ovation ever.

5 Stars

To book tickets to this show go here.


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