Sami Ibrahim plays with the fable element to try to give new depth and strength to the old theme of immigration and British imperialism, creating a play that is surreal and cruelly realistic at the same time. The young London playwright tries to add levity and hope to the tale of a precarious, exhausting and irretrievably broken life and to make the injustice of a cruel and impersonal system even more evident through the strong contrast with the fairy-tale element.
The play is indeed well written and superbly acted by the three cast members, Sara Hazemi, Princess Khumalo and Samuel Tracy, but at times verbose and unmoving. Ibrahim gets lost in metaphors, double meanings and symbols, and forgets to give us the human element, the only one that can really touch the audience. The story of Elif, a refugee on a foreign island, and her daughter Lily, immediately acquires a universal character, exemplary even. We know little about the characters, reduced more to narrative functions with a strong universal value but lacking any specificity, while the narrative is lost in lyrical moments that dazzle but add nothing to the tale itself.
On the contrary, the narrative becomes even more impersonal through the actors’ frequent use of the third person, which mixes with the first person of the stage present, contributing to increasing the distance with the narrated element. It almost seems as if the narration itself wants to comment on itself in a meta-theatrical game that certainly opens up important reflections but leaves the heart aside.
Yet the fairy-tale touches to the plot give it a poetic and profoundness that can only be the result of skilful and erudite writing, and it is in those particular moments that the play takes off, in its alternation of dream and reality, illusion and hope, with the ugliness of an unforgiving world. It is from that contrast that the story nonetheless draws its strength, in knowing how to link two opposing worlds that are necessary for each other’s survival, communicating and inseparable for the human nature itself, which cannot bear too much reality but needs to dream, to hope. A food for thought to which Ibrahim perhaps opens without realising it but which becomes the most interesting dramatic element of the play and which would perhaps have deserved more space. With minimalist direction and a cast with a strong dramatic impact, the play is a pleasant occasion for socio-historical reflection and dramatic lyricism, where words and dreams highlight the injustice of ruthless and soulless gears.
Playing until 27th August, further information and tickets can be found HERE.
Reviewer: Anna Chiari
Reviewed: 16th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★