I spent the first two minutes of this show in the middle of a family domestic running at 180 miles an hour and wondering what on earth was the all the commotion about, like a confused bystander who does not have the benefit of the family backstory. Then, Donna Abela’s ‘Jump for Jordan’, like a well-oiled machine that’s just fired out of the starting line allowed us to catch up and took us on a terrific journey of past, present and future colliding and finding harmony, finally. It’s a play that takes a history of dispossession, conflict and occupation and creates an oasis of belonging and understanding in its narrative and characterisation that leaves us feeling that every person has a chance to move forward, embrace but not be paralysed by the past.
Iain Sinclair has taken Abela’s words and directed a piece that perfectly balances humour with tragedy. Whilst the character of Sophie (Alice Ansara) is at the heart of our story as she tries to reconcile her family immigrant experience and her own sexuality with her mother Mara’s (Doris Younane) insular, cultural and generational preconceptions about what makes her daughters successful or brings shame upon the family, heightened by the arrival of Mara’s sister Azza (Camilla Ah Kin) from Jordan, Sophie’s sister Loren’s (Sheridan Harbridge) wedding and the presence of her father Sahir’s (Sal Sharah) ghost, this play also weaves its pieces like the artefacts it uncovers throughout the play, allowing its audience to take the fragments of narrative and compare them to our own experiences of unravelling our heritage in order to better understand ourselves.
This is a very strong cast and there is a pulsing tension and electricity on stage accentuated by Pip Runciman’s set design of the sands of Jordan creeping through the inner western Sydney home- reminding us that the essence of our heritage is present in our home, even when we are thousands of miles away from it. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of ‘Jump for Jordan’ and it’s a reminder to us of the incredible writing and creative talent we have on our own doorstep that thankfully have been given a voice at the Stables Theatre. Ansara captures Sophie’s curiosity, Harbridge has some of the best comic delivery that sits between archetype and truth, Younane’s Mara is as overbearing as she is broken and Ah Kin is simply mesmerising as Azza, part matriarch, part terrorist.
I challenge anyone not to enjoy ‘Jump for Jordan’. Even though I arrived exhausted in the midst of the busiest week of my life, it allowed me to truly escape and engage and reinforced the power of theatre- this wonderful three-dimensional exploration of ideas and stories that come alive in that moment in a communion between actors and audience. ‘Jump for Jordan’ is why we go to the theatre and if the first three plays I’ve seen at or by Griffin this year are anything to go by, this is the company you should be subscribing to in 2014 if you haven’t already. Bravo.