Grace's Top Picks from The Sydney Fringe- Blacklisted

by Grace Cooper

Image sourced from the Blacklisted, Sydney Fringe Festival website.

Almitra Mavalvala’s heartwarming autobiographical sold-out show, Blacklisted is a cultural eye-opener. Blacklisted is a musical comedy following Almitra’s own experience of being an immigrant from Pakistan. It has been recently nominated for Best Musical Theatre and Cabaret at this year's Sydney Fringe Festival. Almitra is the performer, writer and co-producer of the one-hour musical and comedy show.

Blacklisted is back for another year after a successful season at last year's Fringe at the Hayes Theatre. This year the show was at PACT in Erskinville, an easy-accessible, funky, medium-sized theatre, but it has limited parking spots. 

It took the audience to Almitra’s Pakistan, where the stage featured Persian rugs, chai, insense, large lampshades hanging from the ceiling and traditional Pakistani instruments. This painted a picture of Pakistan, a place I have never considered visiting. The audience had the option to sit on the Persian rugs on stage, an opportunity I would highly suggest taking when watching the show. This is a chance to immerse yourself even more into Almitra’s Pakistani world.

Images sourced from Almitra Malavala. 

Almitra made a promise to her Ma to leave Pakistan when she was 19, her Ma said “Don’t turn your back there is no future here for you”.

There are 10 countries that she can visit without a Visa. But the rest of the countries Almitra needs to attain a visa due to the fact she holds a Pakistani passport. After a devastating rejection from Canada over five times, Almitra assumes she was blacklisted. Due to the fact majority of Pakistanis practice the religion of Islam, but Almitra does not. She states “My passport is not my personality trait”. Then she travelled to America but never felt so lonely and went back to Pakistan. So after a process of elimination, she ended up in Australia. Missing out on major life events, she takes us on an emotional journey. 

This story is intertwined with original music written by Almitra, including slow ballads, rap and singing in Urdu (the national language of Pakistan), the music is perfectly suited to the show. Even in these moments when Almitra was singing in Urdu, I didn’t know what she was singing but I understood her emotions. It was truly beautiful to see a range of different cultures in the audience, many understanding Urdu and directly connecting to the story. She expresses her own conflict of calling Pakistan home but going back being influenced by Western culture, and living in Australia without her family. She now has till June 30th 2024 in Australia unless something drastically changes and she has to undergo this whole process again. A heartbreaking fact but a harsh reality for her. 

Bring the tissues. Almitra’s story will touch your heart and make you realise how lucky we are to live in this country.

Grace Cooper is a third-year Media (Comms and Journalism) and Arts (Theatre and Performance Studies) student. She loves all things theatre and performing, hoping to pursue both television journalism and acting. Another love of hers is coffee, it has become a necessary part of her university life. Grace went to Basser College and is involved in many shows with NUTS (New South Wales University Theatrical Society).

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