Borders by Henry Naylor

Borders Henry Naylor Fringe 2018Gilded Balloon & Redbeard Theatre in assoc. with Holden Street Theatres. Holden Street Theatres. 14 Feb 2018


Oh, Syria. Poor Syria. Your anguish cries from your war-torn walls in strident artwork. Graffiti is the voice of your people. Nameless they must be. Hence, Nameless is the name adopted by one graffiti artist, a brave and passionate young woman, single-mindedly painting anonymous political protests against the Assad regime.

She’s angry. She’s defensive. There is no soft place in her world. On stage in Adelaide, she is embodied by London-based actress Avital Lvova who swiftly will be recalled as the award-winning star of Henry Naylor’s  Angel in last year’s Fringe.


This year, Holden Street Theatres is presenting the fourth of Naylor’s powerful agitprop Arabian Nightmares series about the Middle East. Borders follows The Collector, Echoes and Angel. All have sprung immediately to critical acclaim with Naylor now ranked among the most important playwrights of our times.


This play is divided into two perspectives - that of Nameless, sticking to her paint guns in the savage street life of her brutalised homeland, and that of an ambitious British photo journalist called Sebastian Nightingale who scored a fabulous early career break in capturing a rare and best-ever image of Bin Laden. His subsequent career is less show-stopping and, as jaded old foreign correspondent John Messenger reminds him, he does not have the grit for the field. His forays into world trouble spots come under the auspices of celebrity humanitarians such as Angelina Jolie or Bono and thus does his photo career veer into star studies and his own stardom, much to the disdain of the old journalist called Messenger. 


This conflict allows the playwright to editorialise, so to speak, on the state of modern media, on the loss of true news coverage and journalistic integrity to the endless, slavish reportage of celebrity gossip. It is another great cultural casualty of our times and Naylor nails it.


Graham O’Mara plays the two media figures, each captured with professional perspicacity.  O’Mara is a most exquisitely nuanced actor. He radiates a star quality of his own.


Directed by Michael Cabot and Louise Skaaning and set austerely on a dark stage, the action evolves alternating in his and her worlds, each confronting crises, one suffering the indignity of gender disrespect, of rape and incarceration, the other the indignity of professional soul-sellout. Oh, and Lvova’s rape scene! Oh, how its agony sears into heart and soul and, of course, the poor woman’s suffering is exacerbated when she finds that she is pregnant.


The audience is wondering if and how these worlds may intersect. Well, intersect they do and it is a magnificent and spectacular climax. 


Samela Harris


5 stars


When: 16 Feb to 18 Mar

Where: Holden Street Theatres


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