Country Always

Country Always

Caring for Country

A Corner of the Empire

A Corner of the Empire

The Garden Palace

The Holding Pen

The Holding Pen

The Agricultural Hall

Regional Networks

Regional Networks

Across New South Wales

A Museum of Doing

A Museum of Doing

Technological Museum

Transforming the Tramsheds

Transforming the Tramsheds

Powerhouse Stage 1 and the Harwood Building

A Symbol in Time

A Symbol in Time

Sydney Observatory

Ongoing Transformations

Ongoing Transformations

Powerhouse Ultimo

Applied Arts and Sciences

Applied Arts and Sciences

Defining the terms in the 21st century

Powerhouse Renewal

Powerhouse Renewal

Empowering Arab-Centred Narratives

Empowering Arab-Centred Narratives

In the Room, a Co-Curious x Powerhouse Initiative

Sydney Science Festival

Sydney Science Festival

Across Sydney10—17 Aug
Exoskeleton

Exoskeleton

Powerhouse Parramatta

Blak Powerhouse

Blak Powerhouse

Powerhouse x We Are Warriors

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Stories

Empowering Arab-Centred Narratives

In the Room, a Co-Curious x Powerhouse Initiative
Interview with Randa Sayed by Michael Fitzgerald. Photography by Magnolia Minton Sparke

One of five Western Sydney creatives selected for In the Room, Lebanese Australian Muslim writer and performer Randa Sayed brings humour and heart to a special film collaboration between Co-Curious and Powerhouse.

Growing up as an Arab woman, I have often felt like an alien with amnesia. I have never been to Lebanon and Australia has always felt a little foreign to me. I think now I am older, I am starting to accept the comedy within it all. Rather than sitting in stories of the “other”, I relish in writing stories that reflect the characters and masks that make us feel like we “belong” in an empowering way.
Randa Sayed

With Lebanese Australian writer and actor Randa Sayed (who has also performed under the stage name of Aanisa Vylet), her twin talents are inextricably bound, seeking a communication style somewhere between bodily expression and the written word. ‘I was quite a sensitive kid, and I found that writing was the way that I could express things,’ says Sayed. ‘Then as I went to a Western Sydney public high school where being smart wasn’t expected or cool, I started to distrust my own writing skills. Slowly, I have been rediscovering the narratives that are true to my lived experience with an Arab Australian Muslim background. It has also been a very slow journey back to trusting the way I write, how I express things and my own sensibility as a writer. And I’m still discovering that.’

In between, and not unlike Alia, the intensely curious soul she wrote and embodied for the 2015 short film The Parisian, Sayed went to France to start a journey of self-discovery. Having already graduated with a Bachelor of Performance from Western Sydney University, in Paris she studied clowning and mime at the physical theatre schools of Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier. ‘I wanted to find a way to really communicate things through the body, through a poetic expression that didn’t need the English language or particular words per se,’ she says. And through this period of intense physicality as a performer beyond the spoken word, Sayed discovered herself as a writer.

Returning to Australia, Sayed was able to translate and channel these classical comedic tropes into a series of largely self-devised roles for theatre and TV, bringing humour and heart to such Western Sydney characters as a Muslim Beyoncé wannabe exploring her sexual identity (The Girl), an aspiring paralegal hijabi pushing against her naseeb or destiny (Halal Gurls), and Zac the barber and poet from Fairfield (@ABU SALIM).

At the same time, Sayed has been earning her stripes as an emerging writer for TV, gaining experience in different writers’ rooms (most recently for the ABC series Ladies in Black), ‘trying to find a way to both honour my own cultural background but also be a part of my Australian cultural background, and tell a story that lifts people up,’ she says. ‘What I found is that the writers’ rooms have actually taught me more about creating than any other space because it’s not just about agreeing, it’s about really considering all the parts, and actively chewing on an idea together, actively trying to discover the most exciting story plot that will then draw people in, that will express this thing that we’re trying to do that is incredibly difficult to express. It’s like this fantastic challenge that everyone needs to achieve together.’

It is this unique creative path that has led Sayed to In the Room. Over the past year, she has been collaborating with four other Western Sydney creatives to devise a screenplay for production house Co-Curious, with the major film commission set to premiere at Powerhouse Parramatta in 2025. Co-Curious’ previous film anthology Here Out West (2021) set the benchmark for elevating the culturally diverse stories and voices of Western Sydney, and Sayed says her In the Room writers’ biggest challenge has been imagining: what next?

‘How can we share a story about Western Sydney and tell it in a different, unexpected and empowering way?’ she asks. ‘And I think that vigorous exploration needs to continue. I want it to continue beyond us and beyond this project as well. Because similar to Parramatta, this story is still becoming, it’s still evolving, you know.’ With Sayed’s growing cast of cultural characters born of rich comedic writing, it’s a matter of watch this space – and face.

About

In the Room is a project partnership between Powerhouse and Co-Curious, inviting five Western Sydney creatives to collaborate on a major feature film commission to premiere at Powerhouse Parramatta and to be acquired into the Powerhouse Collection. The participants of In the Room are James Elazzi, Gabriel Faatau’uu-Satiu, Andrew Undi Lee, Randa Sayed and Danielle Stamoulos.

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The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.

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