Melbourne Talam

The MTC’s latest Education production places seldom-seen lives on the mainstage.
Melbourne Talam

Photo by Jeff Busby

Written by Australian-based Indian novelist, screenwriter and playwright Rashma N. Kalsie, Melbourne Talam focuses on the lives of three disparate young Indians trying to find their feet in a foreign city. The unfamiliar rhythms of Melbourne life, the challenges of living away from home, fears of failure and of disappointing one’s family; these and other concerns are gently drawn out in this engaging, sometimes moving composite drama.

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Part of the play’s charm is its deft illustration of the diversity of Indian culture. Each of the three main characters – Delhiite shop assistant Sonali (Sonya Suares) who bemoans her inability to bring the family’s servants with her to Australia and to find a boyfriend; struggling Punjabi student Jasminder (Rohan Mirchandaney) who fears he will lose both his bed and his place at university unless his grandmother agrees to mortage her house to cover his fees; and Hyderabadi IT worker Poornachandra (Sahil Saluja) who is pitted in a tight competition with two work colleagues – represent a different facet of India’s large and ethnically diverse population.

Though none of the three feel especially individual or unique, Kalsie’s script – coupled with committed and truthful performances – ensures the production vividly depicts experiences and characters which are rarely explored on Australia’s mainstages.

The episodic nature of the script sees the cast doubling in numerous small roles (including Mirchandaney’s entertaining take on Sonali’s ocker love interest and Saluja as an elderly Italian nonna) and gives the impression of being better suited to another medium such as television or a novel. The constant switching between minor scenes and characters also pulls focus from the overlapping central narratives, resulting in an occasional lack of dramatic tension.

Despite these flaws, Petra Kalive’s confident direction drives the play forward, and performances are excellent throughout, with Mirchandaney’s sad young Sikh a stand out. Other aspects of the production – especially Andrew Bailey’s vividly and imaginatively realised set and Darius Kedros’ composition and sound design – are effectively presented and well integrated.

An MTC Education production, Melbourne Talam will tour the state (taking in Tasmania for two additional performances) after its Melbourne season. Though it deals with some heavy themes, including loneliness, injury and suicidal ideation, it also demonstrates such themes are universal, whatever language they are spoken in.

3 stars out of 5

Melbourne Talam
An MTC Education production
By Rashma N. Kalsie
Directed by Petra Kalive
Set & Costume Design: Andrew Bailey
Lighting Design: Rachel Burke
Sound Design & Composition: Darius Kedros
Cast: Rohan Mirchandaney, Sahil Saluja and Sonya Suares

The Lawler, Southbank Theatre
9-20 May 2017

Additional performances:
Mildura Arts Centre: Tue 23 May
Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool: Thu 25 May
Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo: Tue 30 May
Eastbank Centre, Shepparton: Wednesday 31 May
The Cube Wodonga: Thursday 1 June
Geelong Performing Arts Centre: Tue 6 June
Launceston College, TAS: Thursday 8 June & Friday 9 June
www.mtc.com.au

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Richard Watts

Monday 8 May, 2017

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM, a program he has hosted since 2004.

Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management, and is also a former Chair of Melbourne Fringe. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, he has also served as President of the Green Room Awards Association and as a member of the Green Room's Independent Theatre panel. 

Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend in 2017. Most recently he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize for 2019.

Twitter: @richardthewatts