The Invisible Sword (Thespian Theatre Company) - 2 hours 40 minutes (including a 15 minute interval)
Religious, cultural, political and financial differences are the root cause of so much hatred and distress in the world.
That’s the takeaway from The Invisible Sword.
The play sees two Lebanese Australian families – one Christian and the other Muslim – friends for life, lock horns.
That happens when the Muslim family’s eldest son, Mohsin (Maurice Kadamani) – who is from a relatively poor background – falls in love with the Christian family’s eldest daughter, Fadleh (Celine Khoury), who is from wealthy stock.
It is something that is strictly forbidden according to the respective families’ age-old traditions, where friendship doesn’t translate to trust.
Mohsin’s father Mounir (Adam Ramzi) was Fadleh’s family’s gardener back in Lebanon.
Respect between the clans turns to vitriol and hatred … and threatens to derail all the goodwill built up over the years, not to overlook a happy union between the loving couple.
Tension abounds throughout.
Some of words exchanged cut to the quick.
While impressive overall, the script is too dense (in other words, it has been overwritten by Khoury, Paul Caccamo and Glen Kalem – inspired by the late Clark Baini) and, is at times, repetitive.
It could readily lose at least half an hour (it runs for just under two and a half hours, excluding interval) without affecting the substance.
More than that, the impact would be even greater.
As it is, the last scene before interval is when temperatures rise to breaking point, which carries into the opening of the second act.
The juxtaposition of the two households works brilliantly. Plaudits to the split set design evident after interval.
Although predominantly a dramatic love story with pathos, that is not to say the piece doesn’t have several humorous moments, including those involving a local who is very protective of her fig trees.
The cast is well meaning and tries hard, but many struggle to deliver natural performances. They push too hard and fail to adhere to the less is more philosophy.
The best of them are the two leads, along with Sam Zawadi, who plays Abu Barhou. He married Fadleh’s mother, Um Barhoum (Helen Dunlop), after her husband (Fadleh’s biological father) died. Abu Barhoum was also Fadleh’s father’s best friend.
Dressed in a long black coat and sporting a grey hat, Houston Dunleavey has impact, too, as the man who inserts himself into the action with homespun wisdom.
It is only at the end of the production that we – the audience – get to understand the meaning of the play’s title, although there is a teaser much earlier on.
I commend The Invisible Sword for highlighting the ugly side of prejudice, often born of generational bias, but at the same time leaving us with a positive message that there is a way through.
Directed by one of the co-writers, Kalem, it is playing at Cracked Actors’ Theatre, 34-36 Lakeside Drive, Albert Park until 27th June, 2021.