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Deceptive Threads Review Excerpts, 2016

Artshub Review

Deceptive Threads

First published on Monday 14 November, 2016

Melinda Keyte

Fate arrives with a candle and lays out a path of pebbles for us to follow, or in this case, threads.

One of the many signature gifts the mysterious guide, deviser and solo performer, David Joseph presents at fortyfivedownstairs’ season of Deceptive Threads is that, ’you are the person you were intended to become.’

Joseph has a conundrum to solve about his family; his heritage and his understanding about where and how his family came to navigate their new home in the years since federation had passed. The strains of Lebanese oud and oriental sounds wrap themselves around the theatre as we climb mountains, board ships and see visions of both past and future all through Joseph’s powerful transformative skill. He tells us, ‘Hi I’m David and I’m here to tell stories’, and with that vanishes behind a curtain from which he emerges in multiple guises that pull us through history: what does it mean to be an immigrant forced to make sacrifices? An immigrant who has the right to both claim and keep their heritage as they navigate their alienating new worlds.

A master performer with a chameleon like charm, Joseph takes us on a rich, fascinating and deeply troubling journey of self discovery through his ancestral family line of the fathers. The sheer scope and detail of the storytelling is mind bending as he introduces stereotypes that are to be instantly discarded. Joseph deftly reveals his family's real and extraordinary hidden past; thread by thread. It’s the unravelling of what is unseen, unheralded and cast off that director Karen Berger and Joseph successfully excavate. Multi-positioned voices makes Deceptive Threads so compelling to watch. Joseph's heroes are funny and unexpected – a crooner of tunes at Melbourne's Tivoli Theatre segues into shady corridors of those who harbour dark secrets.

… Some other stars of Deceptive Threads are the images and projections designed by Zoe Scoglio and Hisham Tawfiqi. They are so integral to the storyline and so beautifully crafted and directed that they simply become a document of storytelling in themselves. The rhythm of these images flowing in and out of Joseph’s narrative – creating breathtaking suggestions of both illusion and reality in a kind of suspended space between real life and the artificial construction of memory.

Joseph is asking us to be a witness and not avert our eyes from the erasure and subjugation of refugees and those fleeing the horror of places like Syria.This stretches back to the erasure and loss some of his own family suffered as immigrants in a wave of sound and fury.

A sumptuous lighting design by Bronwyn Pringle renders the shifting moods evocatively, through space and time, in both the physical theatrics and the minimal but highly effective set – made up mostly of a typewriter and very clever set of drawers – to the richly coloured tapestry of photo-journalistic light projections.

This is an assured theatrical triumph for Bowerbird Theatre and not to be missed. A poignant, deeply personal and moving performance that asks the question ‘is the past really the past?’ It challenges us not to look away from where are we are now in positioning those forced to leave their homelands in search of distant shores.

Rating: four stars out of five


Pop Culture-y Review

Review: Deceptive Threads

by Til Knowles · November 12, 2016

Deceptive Threads is a play that takes the phrase ‘the personal is political’ and applies it to family history. David Joseph, a Lebanese Australian performer of all sorts, has created a production that delves into the experiences of his grandfathers, one a Lebanese refugee and the other a singer turned spy. Like many Australian theatremakers, Joseph addresses themes of belonging, place and identity.  In particular, Joseph’s honouring of his grandfathers touches on the history of Australia’s strong anti-immigration leanings and racist legislation.

It’s a difficult topic, especially in the current climate, and Joseph manages it deftly. Multimedia is very well used in the performance, from the flashing images of newspapers to the digital needle and thread, each moment is perfectly placed next to Joseph’s stage presence. The sound design is likewise powerful, although there are some rather sharp transitions between noise and silence. Joseph’s physical and literal rhythms and use of the space are entrancing, and his command of the visual helps him spin the audience from humour to seriousness as required.

… Like pretty much everything staged at fortyfive downstairs, Deceptive Threads is well worth your evening and your money. This is the kind of art needed in 2016, art that prompts reflection of our country, our histories, and our future.



Stage Whispers Review


Deceptive Threads

Devisor/Performer – David Joseph. Devisor/Director – Karen Berger. Bowerbird Theatre. 45 Downstairs (Vic). 9 to 20 November 2016

Deceptive Threads depicts aspects of the comprehensively researched family, and lived personal, history of David Joseph.  It is an exquisitely crafted piece of theatre made by a number of exceptionally skilled practitioners and seamlessly linked with insightful direction by Karen Berger.   

As a sincere, genuine, moving work, full of heart and integrity, it brings with it strong and timely messages about attitudes to migrants and refugees.

David Joseph, a delightfully personable performer, executes short vignettes of several characters from his heritage, most particularly his paternal and maternal grandfathers.  The first of whom was a Lebanese refugee and the second a Tivoli artiste and ASIO spy.

It is not so much a narrative as a collaged collection of memories, facts and emotional responses.  As Joseph slips from one character or scenario to another, the telling is continued with beautifully orchestrated multi-media.  This is masterfully realized through the projecting of historical ephemera, by Zoe Scoglio and Hisham Tawfiqi, onto a wonderful variety of objects on the set.  Sound design by Joseph and Berger fits ‘hand in glove’ with visuals. 

This show is expressive, even-handed, well tuned, tightly timed, oozes humanity and integrates a light humorous touch. 

The whole culminates in some masterful drumming by David Joseph.

Suzanne Sandow


The Plus Ones Review

‘Deceptive Threads’ at fortyfive downstairs

November 11, 2016

Deceptive Threads’, by David Joseph and Karen Berger, is a journey of self-discovery through investigation of family history. Joseph is both deviser and performer of this honest and humorous performance. Embodying family members, he tells stories of origin, community, and family myths. Moments are brought to life when Joseph plays himself, a technique I simply describe as ‘non-acting’. Away with caricatures, accents, and costumes – audience members get to hear from Joseph the person about why his family is so important to him. These moments are the highlight of the performance.

Growing up in Australia, the only connection Joseph has to his ancestors is the memories of the cultured milk dish known as labne. Joseph decides to fix this by getting to the origins of his own identity through a DNA test. Results that hint to heritage that spreads across the globe is only the beginning. One grandfather, Elias Joseph, comes from the Middle East; and the other, Fred Ommundson, is a policeman turned singer, than singer turned ASIOS spy.

With many autobiographical performances, one must wonder where the line between fact and fiction begins. Joseph cast asides doubt through primary source documents, images, and songs from his family archives. It’s a delight to listen to the audio from his grandfather’s a capella performance in the early 1900s.

‘Deceptive Threads’ is a collision of the personal and the political. With imagery and anecdotes from Australian politicians, … it is the personal that makes it beautiful and touching.

Fortyfive Downstairs is the perfect venue for Deceptive Threads. It is small and intimate, which allows Joseph to speak directly to us as if we are friends. The projection mapping and design by Zoe Scoglio and Hisham Tawfiqi is impressive.

Deceptive Threads’ is honest and raw, which is what I love about autobiographical performances.

– Amber
Amber B. is a freelance stage manager who is excited to keep you up to date with Melbourne’s best theatre.

Disclosure:  The Plus Ones were invited guests of Sassy Red PR.
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