After finishing Cruise Control, I was given the opportunity to direct one of the three finalist-plays chosen for the Noosa Arts Theatre One-Act Play Festival. As soon as I read Drowning, I knew it was the play I wanted to direct. Written by Ian Robinson, and billed as a ‘farce to make you cry’, Drowning is a two-hander between a Sri Lankan refugee and an immigration officer. The play begins after the refugee has arrived on Christmas Island by boat when he is thrust into the office of the immigration officer to be interviewed. It is essentially a tragicomedy and the black humour arises naturally out of situation: namely desperation meets nonsensical bureaucracy that is the result of throughly de-humanising government policies. At the end of the first scene the refugee pleads on his hands and knees not to be sent to a detention centre on Manus Island. He leaves the interview broken, but defiant. The second scene takes place one year later. The immigration officer has been given a promotion and now works on Manus Island. The refugee, whose mental health has severely deteriorated, evades security and sneaks into the immigration official’s office. The refugee insists there has been a security breach at the detention centre and, in what he sees as an act of protection, holds the immigration official hostage. The play concludes as security arrives and the refugee breaks down weeping. Actor Mohammed Shamin gave a heart-wrenching performance as the refugee that was truly affecting and, much-deservedly, received the adjudicator’s award. Sean Bennett also gave a masterful performance as the officious immigration officer. Unsurprisingly, (to me at least) — for it is truly a brilliant play — Ian Robinson won the $5000 prize for Best Play.
L to R: Shaun Bennett, Melanie Myers & Mohammed Shamin