Image by Perth Festival
A review by Crystal Ngo
When the lights turned to darkness, the crowd went quiet. Only moments passed when a bright sound of music filled the room – booming with drums and the sound of a woman’s voice, beautiful and clear. Beaming under a red overhead light appears Oliver, with an expression that appears both content, yet endured with suffering.
Jali is a one-man show that showcases the compelling story of a young Australian man who grew up in a country destroyed by a civil war. Feelings of heartbreak, fear, joy, suffering, and excitement were emotions Oliver delivered through his brilliant story. I felt the strong energy of the room as they maintained their gaze with his every word.
Oliver’s Jali reflects his turbulent past and rollercoaster of emotions. Oliver knows exactly how to engage with the audience by using a combination of storytelling, comedy, and poetry to create an immersive experience. Accompanying this was lights, music, Oliver’s movement around the stage, and smoke moving slowly across the room, composing an ambient performance.
Oliver gives a detailed performance about his experience fleeing the Rwandan civil war at age four. He talked about his experiences of having a gun pointed at him to his first encounter with racism in Australia. He speaks about his relationship with his father and growing up in Malawi- first in a refugee camp then later in the city. Finally, he tells of his relief after being accepted into the Australian government’s refugee intake and his family’s arrival in Ipswich in 2014. Here he began a new life, proving there is light at the end of the tunnel.
While reflecting on his time as a refugee, Oliver provided some thought-provoking insight about what it means to escape from your birthplace. I learned about the feelings of displacement and the sacrifices of seeking refuge. Leaving a war-torn country was not a choice but something that needed to be done to survive.
Oliver tells the audience about the Rwandan genocide and the 100 days of death between the 7th of April to the 15th of July 1994. The Tutsi minority ethnic groups, Hutu and Taw, were killed by armed militias, estimating 500000 to 800000 deaths.
The story evoked feelings of empathy while reflecting on racism and what it is like to be a refugee.
Jali was a captivating performance that was nothing less than exceptional. Oliver’s personal story told through drama and humour proved his resilience to the trauma he endured.
Historian, storyteller, and poet, Mr Twist, lives up to the term Jali as a compelling and charismatic performer. He speaks from the heart. His love and suffering pierced through mine with beautiful delicacy.