Like a mother’s embrace

21 May 2021

A new work from local theatre colllective Third Culture Kids, MoR is a thank you letter to a migrant mother that’s gently and evocatively written and performed by Dureshawar Khan, says Claire Trolio.

MoR, Third Culture Kids ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 20 May 2021 ·

There’s something that happens when you move from childhood to adulthood; you see your parents with fresh eyes and begin to understand them as people in their own right. It can be threatening (you aren’t their whole world) and also humbling (they can make you feel like you are.)

Dureshawar sits on a comfy chair, surrounded by shelves that house flowers and ornaments. On a box next to her are two mugs and a plate with cake crumbs. The floor is adorned with various Persian rugs.
Walking through Kelly Fregon’s set to the audience seating is like being welcomed into a friend’s house for a cup of tea. Photo: Tasha Faye

Written from this place of reflection, MoR is Perth-based writer and performer Dureshawar Khan’s thank you letter to her mum as well as a consideration of her own migrant identity. Presented by local theatre collective Third Culture Kids at the Blue Room Theatre, this new one-woman work is thoughtfully directed by Susie Conte (founder of feminist theatre company Tempest Theatre).

Walking through Kelly Fregon’s set to the audience seating is like being welcomed into a friend’s house for a cup of tea. With the smell of dried flowers and spices, draped fabric, bric-a-brac and a comfy looking armchair, it feels intimate and safe, like a mother’s embrace.

In fact, Khan does brew a cuppa as she weaves stories of her own life into those from her mother and draws attention to the intertwined nature of a mother/daughter relationship. Direct storytelling and spoken word poetry is punctuated by a fairy tale that’s delivered through animation and voice over.

Tea – universally restorative – is an apt metaphor for this cathartic work. Khan contemplates what her mother has sacrificed in life, both by choosing to give up a medical career to get married and have children, and to leave her home in Peshawar, Pakistan, to move her family to Australia. A theme familiar to many migrant children is the pressure to make those sacrifices worthwhile, which Khan considers deeply in her musings about life as a poet and theatre maker.

Khan’s poetic storytelling is this work’s major strength (particularly once she relaxed into her role on stage on opening night). It’s transportive and meditative, and gentle even when exploring themes of xenophobia and guilt.

Performing in MoR , Dureshawar Khan stands at a table, surrounded by bric-a-brac that includes chemistry and medical equipment, although the backdrop of curtains and a lampshade implies that she is in a domestic setting.. She pours a cup of tea.
Tea is an apt metaphor this cathartic work: Dureshawar Khan in ‘MoR’. Photo: Tasha Faye

MoR is presented in both English and Khan’s mother tongue, Pashto. It’s beautiful and personal, and to a non-Pashtun, her Pashto deliveries felt like a gift.

Whilst Khan reflects on Peshawar being firmly in her past, it is also something she carries with her, in her memories, in her experiences and in her name. Sound designer Joanne Carwardine helps transport us to Khan’s hometown and back again with music and recordings. In carving out third culture identity, Khan learns to embrace her history with confidence and pride. MoR is distinctly personal, but also paints a picture familiar to any child of a migrant parent and gives pause for thought about our own experiences. Under Conte’s direction, MoR never loses sight of this broader social context.

Early on, Khan alludes to the subjectiveness of memory, that her recollections of her hometown will differ from her mother’s. It reminds us that parents are people too, vulnerable but resilient.

MoR continues at the Blue Room Theatre until 5 June 2021.

Pictured top: Dureshawar Khan in ‘MoR’. Photo: Tasha Faye

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Author —
Claire Trolio

Claire Trolio completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at UWA. She writes about Western Australia for various digital and print media and owns a shop with her sister. For her, the spider swing is the ultimate in playground fun.

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