14 Nov

Almitra Mavalvala has an absolutely beautiful voice and is a gifted songwriter.

Blacklisted is non-fiction, a sharing of Mavalvala’s personal story.

The title refers to Canada’s refusal to give her a visa. She holds a passport from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. She tells the story of leaving Karachi to pursue her dreams, and eventually ending up here.

Supported by a terrific band  – Tim Cunniffe on keyboard, Kayla Flax on cello and Sarita McHarg on sitar – Mavalvala’s music is mesmerising. Her spoken story has intriguing gaps. I wanted to know more about why she felt had to leave Pakistan. I wanted to know why she thinks Pakistan is “broken”. I would have loved the story to dig deeper into her assumption that she should be able to travel anywhere on the planet. Her argument is that she has been a victim of discrimination and I don’t question that – but when you consider how human cultures have long fought over land and access to resources, it’s odd that we moderns feel we have a right to go everywhere. I’m not defending parochialism, but living in a society in which virtually every theatre production begins with an acknowledgement of country that asserts “sovereignty was never ceded” it should come as no surprise that not every border is automatically open to us.

Mavalvala has some rich musings on belonging and the nature of home. As this work continues to develop – and I hope it does because Australian audiences need more like this – I encourage her to transcend the current theatrical tropes of victimhood, using her testimony of injustice as a step to explore the many walls we build and our reasons for building them, and sharing the beauty that is revealed when even a single brick is removed from one of those walls.

That beauty is implicit already in Mavalvala’s musical performance, and I count myself fortunate to have been in the audience for the show’s “First Look” season.   

Paul Gilchrist

Blacklisted written and performed by Almitra Mavalvala       

First Look Season, 9 -12 Nov, Hayes Theatre

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