Hello My Name Is…

Hello My Name Is…
OzAsia Festival. Co-produced by Biennial of Contemporary Arts. Using text by Edward Bond from Choruses After the Assassinations. Directed by Paolo Castro. Nexus Arts, Lion Arts Centre, Adelaide. 7-9 Nov, 2018.

It is a compliment to be able to say of any show that it inspires a reviewer to delve further into personally researching and investigating the events it depicts and the issues it raises, even if the show in question fails to fully satisfy as a complete dramatic experience.

In the case of Hello My Name Is…, solo performer Jose Da Costa (in the persona, and uniform, of a Timor Leste soldier) takes a mostly calm and quiet approach toward attempting (in stage terms) to deal with the past and present challenges faced by his nation and its people – though there are certainly jolts along the way, leaving us in no doubt about the true impact of geopolitical pressure, the consequences of economic abuse, and the terrible legacy of violence.

Da Costa, himself Timorese-born but currently based in Australia, builds the impact of his presentation very gradually over the course of an hour, placing his character’s reflective words and at-times-confrontational actions in the context of an international political conference, mostly (though not exclusively) populated with just chairs and desks, upon which rest the names of international figures – regional allies and old enemies - each with a stake in the future of Timor Leste.

This is a production that rates high marks for intention and motives, but a less-than-perfect score for achievement in its own right. Da Costa’s physical presence is sufficiently charismatic, but while his vocal delivery manages to be arresting in tone, the words evaded comprehension by this reviewer on multiple occasions, and when dealing with a piece of theatre that tells rather more than it shows, this cannot avoid becoming a problem.

The best moments here include an unequivocally successful interlude of wry humour involving a series of ostensible microphone tests; there is also periodically powerful use of striking symbols on the stage – a skeletal-design hooded top, a wooden cross being carried to resemble a gun - which combine to generate a degree of intrigue and involvement that leads one to expect rather more of the show overall than what it ultimately manages to deliver by the end.

Anthony Vawser

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