"My name is Hugo, and this is my home."
Australian actor, writer and composer Zac Kazepis presents his newest original piece, Last Year's Eve, which seeks to disturb your inner peace in the best, and most well-intentioned way possible. In this brief, forty-minute show, Kazepis shakes you out of your stupor, pulls you out of your comfort zone and puts you in the ill-fitting, scuffed and worn shoes of a refugee.
Kazepis stands alone on the stage, with the barest of essentials around him. A three legged stool, a briefcase, a shirt. First, he is Hugo, a heavily-accented migrant who, after escaping his war-torn country spends five months in a crowded refugee camp. He recalls the air, smelling sticky and stale at the same time, and people, so many people, everywhere.
Last Year's Eve juxtaposes scenes heavy with grief and emotion with moments of humour, joy and elation. Kazepis deftly navigates his audience through the roller-coaster of emotions experienced by a refugee, who is simultaneously visible, yet also painfully invisible in the world. Able to pinpoint the feeling of a powerless marionette tossed from place to place, never quite engaging, never fully existing, observing his own life like a stranger.
The short play is loaded with profoundly touching moments, such as childhood memories of the brother he lost, his discussions of life with an old woman, and the incredibly tense scene where he is marched by soldiers, made to walk ahead through a mine-strewn landscape. It is perhaps due to this intensity that he kept the performance short, despite an enraptured audience.
Thoughtful touches of lighting and sound were integral to the delivery of this emotional performance. Through his voice, he uses accents to distinguish between characters, and sound effects to underscore each short story he shares. Bomber planes overhead, the sounds of a nationalist march in Australia and the cold silence of lonely shoe-box he calls home.
Last Year's Eve calls to attention the invisibility of migrants, and puts a human face on a plight of global proportions. A visceral, in your face performance, told with incredible strength and sensitivity by this multi-talented actor. Kazepis personifies the unfathomable ordeal migrants and refugees endure. And while each of their stories is different, the pain, the fear, and the anguish are universal to their experiences.
This tour-de-force performance by Zac Kazepis captures the migrant experience with a depth, empathy and emotion that is rarer found than a four-leafed clover. This tough and touching watch is guaranteed to get you in the feels, and make you question your politics, your humanity and your good fortune in life. But more than that, it calls one and all to not bear arms, but instead open them wide and embrace a stranger as they would a brother.