Review: Selling Kabul

Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre
22 April to 21 May

Bringing the Australian Premiere of Sylvia Khoury’s Pulitzer nominated drama Selling Kabul, Red Stitch Theatre portrays the humanity and courage of one Afghan family. On the night of his son’s birth, Taroon, an interpreter for the US military, continues to hide in his sister’s apartment. With the US withdrawing most of their troops, Taroon and his family are stuck with the uncertainty of their safety and must question ‘what you would do to save another person’s life?’ Aided by his sister Afiya and her husband Jawid, they must rely on their love for each other to protect Taroon from the outside world and himself. Giving us a glimpse into another perspective and struggle is their neighbour and longtime friend, Leyla grappling with a newborn and her choice between loyalty and safety.

Photographer: Jodie Hutchinson

With his many years on and off stage, director Brett Cousins knows how to deliver a thought provoking and multi-dimensional piece of theatre in an extremely respectful and empathetic way. Creating such an intimate bond between both the cast and the audience, Cousins gave new meaning to the term walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Working the size of the theatre to his advantage, Brett was able to create an intimate setting throughout the whole evening. Even through small moments such as having the main character Taroon on stage living out his day, trapped, while the audience took their seats. Exposition can be a killer for any play but through the genius writing of Khoury’s and the direction of Brett Cousins, the audience was pulled into this one family’s life and relationships in the most fluid manner making everyone feel the emotional rollercoaster and the struggles of this Afghan family trying to survive.

Sophie Woodward’s set and costume design only exemplified this by creating a living room complete with a working sink and appliances which only enhanced the storytelling and added a new layer of tension into any scene. Lighting by Richard Vabre and Sound Design by Grace Ferguson rounds out the creative team bringing a believability to the set and gave an insight into each character’s inner thoughts. Using music throughout the piece heightened the emotion of the scene giving the audience time to digest the severity of the situation. Grace’s clever use of ambient noise sucked the audience right into the world and highlighted the importance of this family doing everything in their power to not let anyone hear what was really going on.

We first meet Taroon, played by Khisraw Jones-Shukoor, awaiting news on the birth of his son and safety of his wife. Showing his paternal instincts while trapped in a situation where he cannot provide them Khisraw’s performance tore at your heartstrings and was highly impactful showing the love behind every decision and the anguish when each decision was taken away from him.

While struggling in her own right, Taroon’s sister Afiya aims to protect her brother and family to the best of her ability. Nicole Nabout’s performance perfectly captured both the familial connections she has throughout the play while also amplifying the love and maternal instincts that come naturally to Afiya even through the heightened emotions or tensions of the surrounding circumstances.

A longtime friend of Afiya’s and next-door neighbour is Leyla played by Claudia Greenstone. Claudia delivered such a nuanced performance bringing believability while setting an undercurrent of tension through her friendship with Afiya. Her emotion and intensity to the role gave a new perspective to the hardships and struggles of an Afghan woman living in this time.

Rounding out the cast is Farhad Zaiwala, playing Afiya’s husband Jawid, bringing a down-to-earth portrayal of a provider doing his best to protect those he loves most. Farhad’s performance intertwined the connections between all characters and was able to play the shades of each scene and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Red Stitch Theatre have truly delivered a phenomenal show and continue to bring their audiences along for a thought-provoking and thrilling piece of theatre. It is not one to be missed.

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Tasha White

Tasha White

Tasha White is an active performer in the theatre industry having worked both on and off stage. She continues to work on Melbourne’s stages and hopes to shine light on independent theatre. IG: @tash_liana
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