"The work of Ruth Fingret could be performed in a cardboard box and it would make an audience feel something".

ASYLUM

Where do you go to hide?

Set against the tragedy of statelessness ASYLUM explores the deeply personal lives
of those who seek physical asylum and those with the power to grant it.

As he assesses Hajir's application for refugee status, Craig’s life unravels when his son Jason is arrested and his estranged wife Vicki returns. When untruths are uncovered he faces a dilemma: support the young men despite their lies or stick to his rigid principles of truth and duty.

Asylum is a story of family, duty, trauma, and tough choices.

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Characters

CRAIG: 45+, caseworker with Australian Immigration, father, husband, at a moral crossroad

HAJIR: mid 20s, Lebanese asylum seeker, desperate to start a new life at any cost

JASON: early 20s, Craig’s son, troubled and now in some trouble with the police.

VICKI: 45+, Craig’s wife, a recurring destabilising force in his life. 

CHRISTINE:  mid 20s, the rookie police officer caught in the middle of a difficult family dynamic.

Detailed Synopsis

ASYLUM examines the complex dynamics of Craig’s family, an immigration officer torn between his duty and his love for his child. He faces a moral dilemma as he decides the fate of a young refugee while grappling with his own son’s troubles.

The story begins with Craig interviewing Hajir, a young refugee from Lebanon. Concurrently, Craig’s son, Jason, is being questioned by the police as a suspect in an assault case. As events unfold, Craig’s estranged wife, Vicki, who has been mentally unwell, reappears after a three-year absence, adding to the family turmoil.

Raising Jason as a single father for fifteen years has been challenging, and Jason’s arrest feels like the breaking point for Craig. He contemplates whether it is time for Jason to face the consequences of his actions. Vicki, for whom Craig harbors cautious and conflicted feelings, pressures him to do more to help their son. Jason, aware of the gravity of his situation, pleads for his father’s assistance.

As Hajir shares his harrowing experiences of escaping the horrors of Lebanon, Craig struggles to reconcile this with his son’s self-destructive choices. Although both young men are of similar ages, their circumstances are starkly different: one fleeing a war-torn homeland, the other seemingly squandering his life.

Craig suspects both Jason and Hajir are concealing the truth to protect themselves. While he empathizes with their reasons, he finds it hard to accept their deceit. This internal conflict intensifies with further arguments with Vicki, leading to her isolation and eventual suicide.

Jason’s revelations shed light on the depth of his struggles, including coping with ADHD, a bipolar mother, and feeling constantly judged by his father. Meanwhile, Hajir implores Craig to overlook his deceit and grant him asylum in Australia.

Craig is ultimately faced with a profound choice: should he extend compassion and support to these two young men despite their dishonesty, or remain steadfast to the principles of truth and duty that have guided his life? ASYLUM is a poignant exploration of moral complexity, familial bonds, and the challenging intersections of personal and professional life.

From the Writer

The creative journey for ASYLUM was ignited by two encounters with different men over the course of three weeks. The first was a man I met who worked within the Australian Immigration system. He shared his insights into the relentless efforts of immigration officers to discern the authenticity of asylum seekers’ accounts amidst the flux of truth and fabrication. The second was a father whose son had recently been arrested. He looked beaten and told me he was fed up bailing him out and had decided that this time he was leaving him to fight on his own.

Australia was in the thrall of the Stop the Boats campaign and I imagined what it would be like for an immigration officer charged with deciding on the freedom of another while his own son was facing potential incarceration.  As I wrote the play it prompted reflection on the sanctity of refuge and the places, real or imaginary, we seek solace in times of adversity. Where do we go to hide? As the focus widens from the asylum seeker’s story to encompass the entire family dynamic of the man who will decide his fate, Asylum explores the complexity and similarity of their intertwined struggles and the profound impact of each character’s decisions on one another.

 

2024 Production

May 2-12, 2024 The Greek Theatre Marrickville

CAST

Eli Saad as Hajir

Chris Miller as Craig

Levi Kenway as Jason

Dianne Weller as Vikki

Emma Burns as Christine

CREATIVES

Ruth Fingret Writer

Olga Tamara Director and set designer

Mehran Mortezaei Lighting Design

Greg Skehill Score

Supported by Ian Cooke

WARNINGS

ASYLUM includes coarse language and loud noises and contains themes of violence, suicide and domestic abuse. Not recommended for children under 15 years of age. 

RUN TIME

75 Minutes

"Director Olga Tamara has done a wonderful job bringing together this production. It’s clear that she spent a lot of time, focusing on the dynamics and how it propels the story and the ideas forward. "

4th Wall review

"Plenty of credit is due to director Olga Tamara. In her masterful hands, the opening scene cleverly and precisely shows how Jason’s and Vikki’s issues weigh on Craig’s mind as he interviews Hajir, and this sets up a frame that lends the whole play a clear sense of direction."

Theatre Travels

"Olga Tamara’s direction is just as tight and demanding. She pushes the pace, ensuring the conflict and tension introduced in the first few moments continue through scenarios that are charged with anger, fear, violence, resentment, blackmail, lies, love."

Stage Whispers

"Directed by Olga Tamara, the work presents this powerful narrative performed by an extremely skilled and cohesive ensemble."

Theatre Thoughts

2017 Production

Comber Street Studios, Paddington
November 15-25

Images by David Hooley

CAST

Eli Saad as Hajir

David Woodland  as Craig

Joshua MacElroy as Jason

Katherine Shearer as Vikki

Hannah Raven as Christine

 

CREATIVES

Director Richard Hiliar

Producers  Brave New Word