Interview :: Sydney Festival – Hazem Shammas on Buried City

January 17th 2012

Fancy a night at an inner city construction site with piss-drunk labourers, a haphazard teen, a security guard that carries drugs, and a sh*tload of coarse language? To Belvoir St Theatre we go!

Buried City, the latest work from Urban Theatre Projects and Belvoir, digs up the intertwining words, stories and experiences straight from the neighbourhoods that make up this ever-evolving city of ours. Shy Magsalin asks co-devisor and performer, Hazem Shammas, what it was like to build this community-developed show with some of Sydney's leading theatre-makers.


Hazem Shammas in Buried City, Photo by Heidrun Löhr


FBi: Tell us about Buried City. What do you think audiences are going to love about the show?

The inspiring Alicia Talbot heads a great team of some of the best theatre-makers in the country…seriously: Neil Simpson, Sean Bacon, Paul Prestipino. Neil and Sean’s lighting design is emotional, hypnotic and beautiful. Paul's composition and sound design is unpredictable. Then you have Sydney living legend Perry Keyes singing his original ballads- his story, poetry and musicality blow your mind. And he manages to do this while acting for the very first time on stage, and still shows up some of us more experienced actors. The guy’s a genius. Alicia is one of the most important directors in this country right now. She makes work that matters, that is about real people, real issues and real voices. There is also no mystery to why Raimondo Cortese is everywhere at the moment. This man's script writing is deep and challenging and he shares the same brilliant perception and intrigue for human behavior and story as Alicia, which makes them a winning combo.

What has it meant to you personally to be part of this project?

This has been the best collaborative theatre making experience of my career so far. I've had the chance to be a part a collaborative theatrical creative process that I haven't explored so far. It's a process that's quite rare. Not a lot of mainstage theatre in Sydney is created this way, so it's a really unique experience.

Tell us a bit about how the work was put together. What's it been like to collaborate with the artists on board?

Alicia researched for a heap of years, teamed up with Raimondo in the last few years, took it into an eight-week rehearsal process with the actors and collaborative artists and we created what we've got now. Community consultation was regular throughout the process, which meant that all the real people Alicia had been annoying with her research came in to look at the material on the floor and provide feedback. They've absolutely loved it too. Everyone's been great to work with, up for everything. It's dirty, honest and it's passionate.

What's your favourite performance moment in the show?

The best bit about it is the collective brilliance [of everyone] putting their creative heart and soul on the line in every moment. Its hard work as an actor but this stuff wasn't meant to be easy. It's raw. It's real people, real voices and real desires on the line, in the moment. It's the kind of theatre we should be aspi


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