The Theatreguide.London Review
Donmar Warehouse Theatre Summer 2019
David Greig's 1994
drama is a generally sombre acknowledgement of the lives of some
people often overlooked by the rest of the world, its conclusion not
much more than one character's assertion that 'We are Europe too.'
Its broad scope and
dispassionate observational tone lack the
sharpness a more tightly focused outrage might have had, and Michael
Longhurst's slow-moving and meandering direction of this revival adds
to the sense of general and enervating glumness.
It's heavy going for
a summer's evening.
The play is set in a
somewhere on the continent, such a dying place that the trains no
longer stop there and (in a resonant image) the express goes by too
fast to read the town
name on the deserted station.
Along with a handful of
meet a couple of 'economic migrants' pausing to catch their breath on
a journey headed vaguely westward. And while the play doesn't say
they're all in the same boat, it recognises that they're all in boats
of some sort, none of them (to strain my metaphor) with any guarantee
Among the locals are a
couple eager to leave and a
couple who drift into the blame-it-all-on-foreigners ultra-right. One
of the travellers finds an unexpected opportunity to set down roots
while another moves on with renewed but not blind hope of something
A couple of characters
die pointlessly, and the world outside
notices none of it.
The challenge for a play
like this is making us
care, and neither playwright Greig nor director Longhurst is
particularly successful at it, neo-Brechtian devices like act-opening
choruses and titled scenes just separating us further from the
This is in spite of some
particularly by Faye Marsay as the local most desperate to leave,
Natalia Tena as the migrant in whose rootlessness she sees freedom,
Ron Cook as the stationmaster disoriented by the loss of his calling,
and Kevork Malikyan as the outsider with whom he finds an unexpected
As that short list suggests, you are likely to find more to attract your interest and sympathy in the personal stories than in their geopolitical implications.
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