Review: Stevl Shefn and his Translator Fatima

by Jane

This review originally appeared on

Stevl Shefn (Steve Sheehan) has come down to the Garden of Unearthly Delights to share with his audience a series of stories about his life and this world. Stories about his aunt’s adult video shop, his inventor uncle, his “hermaphrodite” partner (with great detail given to all four types of genitalia possessed), as Stevl takes diversion after diversion, painting a crazier and crazier picture of himself.

The only problem is, he doesn’t speak English.

In fact, he doesn’t seem to speak any discernable language at all. Which is where Fatima (Emma Beech) comes in. The buzz and jump, the out-dated eccentricity of the plaid suit, the wild-paced physicality and even wilder eyes of Stevl are markedly contrasted in Fatima, hidden, conservative, still and reserved behind her burqa. The audience are asked to put their faith inFatima and her translations, and are constantly having to measure up: is Stevl really this crazy, truly this anomalous, or is Fatima twisting this translation? If she is twisting this translation, is it as simple as a miss-translation, a poor understanding of the finer points of Sheehan’s conceived gibberish, hodge-podge Eastern-European language, or is this a deliberate mockery of him and his country? Even though only Fatima’s eyes are visible, Beech manages to convey her sense of dissatisfaction in Stevl – particularly when she is asked to translate his translation of his vacuum cleaner.

While the translator joke doesn’t quite sustain the fifty-minute act, enough gems are peppered throughout to justify its length.Sheehan bounds across the tiny stage of The Campanile with an incredible physicality: the verbal bounce and patter of this bubbly unintelligible language is neatly partnered with the physical bounce and patter, made all the more evident paired against the smooth and calm Australian of Fatima.

I’ll leave this review with a few words from my vacuum cleaner: zwjzwjzwj zwjzwjzwj zwjzwjzwj zwjzwjzwj zwjzwjzwj. To understand what she is saying, I guess you’ll have to see the show.