It’s been a big year for AFL in Sydney with the launch of a second club. Team this with the broadcast of SBS’s Go Back To Where You Came From and The Merger is pretty topical for Sydneysiders. Damian Callinan’s one-man play was nominated for Best Show at Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival.

It tells the story of what happens when a Victorian town is forced to recruit asylum seekers to save their dying footy club. Callinan, who has been likened to Chris Lilley, plays eight characters. One of which is Afghani key forward Saeed who discovers his love of football while being detained in Nauru Island for four years. “It is pretty touchy pulling off an accent without seeming like Borat,” he says. While Callinan’s knowledge of our homegrown sport is impeccable, he spent four months reading everything he could from asylum seeker diaries to books on Islam. “In some cases people in detention centres are deliberately denied access to literature and the internet which makes it difficult to learn English and keep in touch with the world,” he explains. “Saeed used to get slipped in books about AFL player biographies, so he learns about Australia via a heavily coded form of literature. He ends up being a fantastic player and takes to it like a duck to water.”

While the plot may be a tad fanciful, it’s a situation that is happening all across Australia. “Communities are becoming renowned for their emergence of refugees and asylum seekers. Like Go Back To Where You Came From, when you learn the full horror of their stories, it’s hard to use sweeping generalisations and blind rhetoric when faced with actual human tragedy.”

Published in City News online and in print on September 2, 2012


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