There are few plays, let alone one-man shows, which have the power to truly change minds and hearts. Dirt is one such rare piece of theatre, and its combination of poignant writing delivered with beguiling emotionality makes this performance an absolute must-see.
Dirt gives the audience an insight into the life of illegal Iraqi immigrant Sad (Christopher Domig), not a Kurd but an Arab. Someone who, having failed to qualify for protection under what are arguably outdated definitions of refugeehood, is forced to live on the periphery of western society. As the audience glimpse into the lonely existence of this outsider we are called to put aside the labels that distinguish him from us, such as ‘illegal immigrant’ or ‘non-citizen’and view Sad as a human being - the only label of any real importance.
To Sad, words are not just throwaway; one can make all the difference. “Kodak changed my life”, he says, pointing at a faded picture of his now deceased family, “my eyes are closed…I wasn’t used to having my picture taken”. Kodak is not just Sad’s first foray into the English language but a metaphor for the western culture from which he remains divided.
This metaphoric duality is implicit in the title, Dirt, and resonates throughout the performance. It is from dirt that beautiful things can grow – like the red roses that Sad sells on the streets each night to make his living. So too, understanding and acceptance can come from something as ugly as hatred. Playwright Robert Schneider’s point comes slowly at first but with increasing intensity as the performance continues.
This is outstanding writing brought to life by an exceptional and committed actor. Domig’s performance is impossible to fault. Recognition must go also to David Robinson’s direction, for despite Domig’s familiarity with the text, he shows no sign of fatigue. The set design (Daniel Domig) – a sparse and dingy interior – provides credible context to Sad’s isolated existence and is strengthened by the sole use of candlelight at times, intensifying the horror of the marginalisation of Sad and others like him.
We owe Domig thanks for his persistence in pursuing the staging of this piece. Dirt is a play that should be seen by everyone at least once for it would be a challenge not to be touched by this intense and important piece of theatre.<p>