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Lady Tabouli

"warmly funny ... very much grounded in reality"

Audrey review: A stylish production of James Elazzi's complex coming out story confirms this rising Western Sydney playwright's promise.

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Lady Tabouli

Date: 12 Jan 2020

Coming out to your conservative Lebanese-Christian family is never going to be easy.

Doing so on a day when stress is already peaking ahead of a ceremony at which the entire community will be present makes it exponentially harder. In fact, why would you do it all all unless you felt you had to?

A kitchen in a comfortable Western Sydney home, mid-morning. Twenty-something Danny (Antony Maklouf) is keeping his head down.

While his sister Josephine (Nisrine Amine) frets over her infant son’s christening and related colour coordination issues, and mum (Deborah Galanos) sprays holy water around the kitchen as if it were God’s own disinfectant, Danny busies himself making paper flowers and deflecting questions.

The entire family will be at church this morning with one very notable exception – Danny’s fiancé. The engagement has been suddenly called off.

Why? Danny isn’t saying.

Set in one house and confined to a single morning (apart from an introductory flashback to Danny and Josephine’s childhood), James Elazzi’s play sensitively probes one family’s response to what it perceives as a crisis.

Elazzi’s portrait is warmly funny and seems very much grounded in reality. Lady Tabouli has a fly-on-the-wall quality to it that draws you into a complex dilemma in which faith, traditional notions of masculinity and social standing within a tight-knit community all play a part.

Unfolding in a slow burn for 90 minutes director Dino Dimitriadis’ production (for National Theatre of Parramatta) can feel slightly underplayed at first but that same unforced quality also allows laughter to arise easily as we observe the Boustani family’s fussing and fretting. Later, the play comes to a satisfactory boil as Danny discovers that others in his family have secrets, too.

It’s a stylish production, too, staged on a sleek and realistically detailed domestic set (by Jonathan Hindmarsh) that comes apart as the family fractures.

Later in the piece, the set is reassembled into the Boustani’s “salon” where a distraught Danny has a hallucinatory encounter with the late Arabic cinema and music superstar Sabah (embodied here by Johnny Nasser, who also plays Danny’s uncle).

Arriving hard on the heels of the excellent Omar and Dawn at KXT last year (also directed by Dimitriadis and featuring Maklouf), Lady Tabouli confirms Elazzi as a playwright of considerable promise.

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