Triumph Over Tragedy: Mandela Mathia’s ‘Lose to Win’

Lose to Win, now playing at Belvoir St Theatre, is a poignant and powerful one-man show that captures the essence of Mandela Mathia’s extraordinary journey from the hardships of South Sudan to the stages of Sydney, Australia. This production, directed by Jessica Arthur, is a striking testament to resilience, hope, and the transformative power of storytelling.

Mandela Mathia is both the writer and star, presenting an intensely intimate yet universally relatable narrative. His story of fleeing war, experiencing loss, and ultimately creating a new life in Australia is portrayed with heartfelt honesty and vulnerability.

Mathia’s script is both deeply personal and broadly resonant, offering a poignant reflection on his experiences of displacement, survival, and identity. Through his storytelling, Mathia draws compelling parallels between his experiences and the broader histories of displacement shared by the South Sudanese community and the Indigenous peoples of Australia.

The show effectively interweaves messages of hope and the idea of a “promised land”, representing not just a physical location but a state of peace and opportunity for many refugees and displaced individuals. Mathia explores these themes through his own search for safety and stability, first across various regions of Africa and ultimately in Australia.

The similes drawn between the plight of South Sudanese people and that of Australian Indigenous people are subtle yet powerful, pointing to shared experiences of colonisation, cultural erasure, and the struggle for recognition and rights. This thematic overlay enriches the play, making it not only a story of endurance but also a commentary on universal themes of justice and human dignity.

The production is enhanced by the collaborative efforts of its creative team. Set and costume design by Keerthi Subramanyam and Kate Baldwin’s lighting design creates an immersive environment that brings the storytelling to life. Yacou Mbaye’s rhythmic drumming punctuates the play, adding a dynamic auditory element to the performance.

Lose to Win is an inspiring production that showcases Mandela Mathia’s extraordinary ability to convey complex and emotional experiences, inviting audiences to reflect on the broader implications of his journey within the contexts of contemporary Australian society and the global movements of people. It’s a modern Australian story that captures the heart with its humour and humanity and challenges the mind with its insightful connections to broader social issues.

– The other Daniel Craig


Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig

Lose to Win runs for 1hr 10 mins (no interval) and plays at the Belvoir St Theatre through 19 May 2024. Tickets are available through the Belvoir St Theatre Box Office.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Kabuku Public Relations.
Image credit: Brett Boardman.