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THEATRE: 07 NOVEMBER 2016

By ROSIE DALTON

My Father’s Left Testicle, by Murray Lambert | Directed by Murray Lambert

Mustard Seed Productions & The Depot Theatre (http://thedepottheatre.com) | The Depot Theatre, Marrickville, Sydney | Until 12 November

As the government looks to further tighten Australia’s immigration laws, My Father’s Left Testicle couldn’t possibly be more relevant right now. Presented by Mustard Seed Productions, Sydney playwright Murray Lambert is behind this dark comedy — which is thought-provoking, hilarious and at times uncomfortably close to home.

Flipping our nation’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’ on its head, this play proposes an alternate reality in which a ragtag group of refugees flee Australia and are subsequently ‘processed’ through a grimy detention centre. What ensues is everything from bureaucratic disarray to far more serious issues such as sexual assault. In both instances though, the absurdity of the situation is laid bare.

In terms of subject matter, this play is a serious one — which is perhaps why it’s so surprising and also impactful to see these issues explored through the medium of humour; albeit of the dark persuasion. The opening scene of My Father’s Left Testicle, for example, introduces the satire at work — as the small cast of five embody their caricature of a parliamentary cabinet.

These are the first third of the total 15 characters they will play throughout the production. Kicking things off, the ‘cabinet’ hyperbolically discuss what they can possibly do with the refugees currently inconveniencing them. Ultimately, the solution is a twisted take on the traditional summer camp, entitled Camp Assimilation. Which provides the bleak backdrop for much of the play.

Exploring identity in ways both original and amusing, this play presents nationality as something of a biological roulette. In its own words, My Father’s Left Testicle asks not which country, but from which testicle we each came. Above all though, it emphasises the similarities inherent in humanity — positioning otherness as little more than a social construct. This is a notion perhaps best explored in the ‘processing’ scene, where Nicholas O’Regan explains, as translator Mr Cardigan, that while he is proficient in ‘American’ and ‘English’, he unfortunately does not speak ‘Australian’.

Combining slapstick, acrobatics and clowning, My Father’s Left Testicle will make you laugh as much as it does cry. The lighting is effective and the soundtrack adds a subtle but impactful addition to the narrative, as it plays out in The Depot Theatre’s cosy, semi-circular surrounds. Make no mistake though, this deeply subversive play delves where few productions have the courage to go and leaves you feeling contemplative above all else. Yes it is hilarious, but it will certainly get you thinking.

Images: Clare Hawley.