Immigrant voices in recent Australian theatre
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The plays and companies treated in this essay reveal a truism of immigrant experience: that the psychological adjustments required in migration are harder to achieve than the physical aspects of the process. Culture and identity are at the heart of the matter. Alienated from the adopted country's culture, eager for the familiar, and anxious about cultural discontinuity, recent immigrants commonly attempt to preserve as much as possible of their original culture in their new environment. After a time, as the bonds of the parent culture loosen, immigrant populations may develop a hybrid identity, not so closely identifiable as part of the parent culture, which is continuing and changing without them, but part of the adopted one in new and special ways. Such a position is a sometimes-uncomfortable amalgam of doubleness and difference. Recent Australian theatre well reflects these two aspects of the immigrant experience and adds a third, in which the difficulties, pleasures and transformations involved in migration provide theatre makers with material for more generally applicable representations of human experience. These three types of response to migration in recent Australian theatre (the desire for cultural continuity, the attempt to blend or bridge the parent culture and the new, and the greater recognition of migrant experience as part of a more generally human experience) suggest departure and arrival in differing degrees. While the first two proceed from a sense of various kinds of distance, the final reveals an awareness of commonality or unity with others, of being at home.
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