You don’t get to 80 without collecting a few scars.
Dawn has her fair share. She’s lost a son and, more recently, her beloved husband.
But she’s active and independent. She volunteers at the local hospital, goes out on girls’ nights once a week. And every so often, Dawn opens her house to a troubled teenager.
This time it’s Omar, young, queer and Lebanese-Australian, who’s bounced between foster homes and the street ever since his family threw him out.
He’s no picnic. Omar is furiously angry at the world and trigger-happy with it. It’s a point of honour to unload on others before they can hate on him first.
Like Christos Tsiolkas’ incendiary debut novel Loaded, western Sydney writer James Elazzi’s Omar and Dawn depicts young men at war with their families and cultural expectations.
With best friend Ahmed, Omar makes money hanging around a beat popular with Middle Eastern men. But while Ahmed seeks annihilation in anonymous sex, Omar finds himself drawn to the stability offered by Dawn and the offer of a pathway toward stability.
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Directed by Dino Dimitriadis on a raised gravel-floored set (an Aleisa Jelbart design), and with no set changes between scenes that take us from night-time park to Dawn’s kitchen, to the garage owned by Dawn’s brother Darren, the play holds our attention steadfastly. Ben Pierpoint’s music is striking for its effectiveness in accenting the moods of the piece.
Maggie Blinco is a radiant presence as Dawn. She’s as tough as a boot and more than a match for the explosive intensity of Anthony Makhlouf’s Omar, but we sense fragility there, too and the underlying grief that drives Dawn to do what she does.
Lex Marinos is excellent as the taciturn Darren, who opens his garage and then the secrets of his heart to Omar. Mansoor Noor’s locates the necessary rage and sadness in Ahmed.
A couple of soapy lines and plot twists have made the final cut of Elazzi’s script (a late-life change of circumstances for Darren doesn’t wholly ring true – assuming it actually happens) but Omar and Dawn is a gripping, economical and emotionally affecting work of drama and this production – a joint effort between Apocalypse Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre Company – showcases it expertly.