Two Refugees and a Blonde: Laughing with asylum seekers

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 杭州夜生活
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0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;”>Read our full Refugee Week coverage here.

Throughout refugee week, the nation’s attention is turning to the plight of those who’ve fled their homeland in the search for a better life in Australia.

A lot of their stories are harrowing, but a Melbourne trio are also taking a lighter look at life as a refugee in this new land.

Actress and writer Rain Fuller has teamed up with playwright Shahin Shafaei and comedic actor Osamah Sami to create a web series titled “Two Refugees and a Blonde”.

On the surface, the title reflects the reality – starring Fuller as the blonde, Sami and actor Behrouz Harvesi, as refugees – but the story is tinged with humour, poking fun at the way refugees are perceived.

“We’re trying to create a dialogue,” Fuller said.

“This topic of refugees and asylum seekers coming to Australia has been a hotly contested issue and very serious issue for so many years.”

The comedy looks at what happens when two Muslim refugee men arrive on the doorstep of an outspoken blonde radio host, asking where their rooms are.

“Chaos ensues as these crazy characters try to live life together,” Fuller said.

“At the end of it, you kind of realise they’re all as crazy as each other!”

‘They are not going to tell you what you are sentenced for – because there is no crime, you haven’t committed a crime’

Shafaei, who directed the comedy, left his native Iran when his work as an actor and playwright was banned.

He arrived in Australia by boat in 2000 and spent 22 months at the Curtain Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia.

“To give you an image, basically, consider you are imprisoned, without having any conviction,” he said.

“You don’t have any hope. You don’t know if you’re going to be here for one year, two years. And they are not going to tell you what you are sentenced for – because there is no crime, you haven’t committed a crime.”

Shafaei spent 11 months in isolation.

He said he wasn’t allowed to have any contact with the outside world.

“We are not allowed to send any letter, make any phone calls, to watch even TV,” he said.

“We were not allowed to watch Olympic games, which was happening in Australia, because that meant us getting information from outside world.”

Shafaei created a one-man play about his life in Iran and in detention here. He toured the country performing, and encountered people who’d never met an Iranian before, let alone someone who’d arrived here by boat.

‘You need to just chip away at the wall and make that effort in creating a dialogue’

“I felt like to tell my story would be a great thing,” he said.

“You need to just chip away at the wall and make that effort in creating a dialogue.”

That show motivated “Two Refugees and a Blonde”, which he said was a “continuation” of his work over the past 13 years.

Sami provides a perfectly-tuned comedic performance in the web series, though he said it’s no surprise given his background.

“I was born in Iran, to Iraqi parents and one side of my Iraqi parents is also Kurdish,” he said.

“So, Iraqi, Kurdish, Iranian and now Australian – that’ll probably explain the comedy side and confusion.

“I just wake up with a comedy concoction in my blood.”

Sami and his family came to Australia as refugees when he was 13 and knows the struggle to learn a new language and new culture.

He said he went through the usual “initiation” of being teased at school but soon started turning his words into comedy.

He even made light of an interrogation he and his theatre friends received, after arriving in post-9/11 America for their play “Saddam the Musical”.

‘I do have a membership card that says ‘Proud Bomber’, because I barrack for the Bombers’

“You wouldn’t really have thought about it twice, but at the end of the day, I went to America, my name is Osamah, I do have a membership card that says ‘Proud Bomber’, because I barrack for the Bombers,” he said.

“So they saw ‘Osamah, Proud Bomber’, and I went in with a troop of nine other Muslims. And here we rocked up: Osamah, Mohammed, Ali and Hassan and Hussein and Mustapha, and they thought ‘you guys are far too organised to be a theatre company’.

“So they just wanted me to name the suicide bombers, ‘name the bombers Osamah, name the bombers’. So I just spat out the coach, manager and players names.”

Homeland security didn’t find it very amusing and sent the men back to Australia.

It shook some of them up, but after a while, Sami started using it in his comedy routine.

“Comedy is very accessible,” he said.

“You can identify with characters and relate to them, when you’re laughing with them, or even if you’re laughing at them.”

The trio said their web series is a way of addressing a fatigued debate in a different, light hearted way and hope it will make people understand asylum seekers as people too.

Shafaei said it boils down to education – the more people know about the situation, the better their understanding will be.

“It might even encourage them to speak to their neighbour.”

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