Playwave Creative

REVIEW: Lose to Win

Lose to Win
Presented by Belvoir St Theatre
Review by Danny Yazdani

As the title implies, Mandela Mathia’s Lose to Win charts the ups and downs of life as we know it: giving so much to gain so much in return. In his first foray with playwrighting, Mathia takes us from South Sudan, to Egypt, and finally - to the place we call home - to Australia. In a journey too momentous to describe on paper alone, Mathia’s life story culminates in an ode to his long marginalised South Sudanese-Australian community and his unique place among them.

It is particularly beautiful to see Mathia as both the playwright of Lose to Win, but also its performer. The text is brought to life quite literally in the most authentic way possible, as Mathia dramatises his own life on stage.  The script is packed with punchy statements enlivened by Mathias’ naturally magnetic energy;

“In this country, you think it’s your right to have three meals a day. Me, where I came from? I think it’s a miracle”.



Most of the show’s dialogue provokes the average Belvoir member to reconsider the immense privilege present in their lives, but also the immense privilege of sitting in a theatre and watching a performer like Mathia describe ruin and loss from afar.

Commandeering the stage in this one-man show is no easy feat, but the traditional south Sudanese music played live by Yacou Mbaye guides the shows transitions and emboldens the script’s meta theatrical features. Mathia breaks the fourth wall countlessly, while Mbaye strikes a cheeky beat on his nuggara drum and his banimbo to heighten the experience. Foregrounded by Mathia’s performance, the set remains simple yet coordinated: some sort of woven, yellow tapestry is draped across the angular Belvoir stage, while Mathia performs in front and around a rectangular slab of concrete, revealing small props and set pieces across the seventy minutes. Apart from the awkward transition here or there, I was pleased to see production elements work so harmoniously to create a mostly uninterrupted and well-flowing piece.



Luckily, I was able to attend the show on Belvoir’s Q&A Night.  When I asked Mathia how it felt to write his story in a time where the Australian government is trying to impose additional cruel and inhumane laws against asylum seekers, he responded with, “I’m blessed”, referring to his ability to contribute to the topical conversation through art. His words speak for themselves. Alongside other daring creatives, Mathia and the Lose to Win team earn their place in contemporary Australian storytelling with a punch for greater good.



Lose to Win is playing at Belvoir St. Theatre until 16 May 2024. Tickets can be purchased here.

Production images by Brett Boardman



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