Idlib, from new production company Storm in the North, is a transient piece in so many ways. Written and directed by Kevin Dyer, it started as a piece of prose as a prelude for a play that morphed into a short story before becoming the script for this monologue. As a halfway step on its journey to becoming a full-length stage play, the parallel to its content couldn’t be more complete.
Commissioned by Chester Bandstand, performed by Paislie Reid, and based on the story of a Syrian baker who wanted to go home and real interviews with Syrian refugees and escapees across Europe, it tells the story of a woman who has hope.
There’s a normality to Reid’s delivery that is comforting and almost invites you to step into the picture she paints, but it isn’t a scene that most of us would recognise. This is modern-day Syria, a country plagued by civil war since 2011, and the daily events they have become accustomed to are far from our normal backdrop as the images of destruction that punctuate the monologue into manageable pieces constantly remind us.
Reid’s calm voice is reassuring until we listen properly to her words, words which carry the alarm of those plunged into the despair of a suspicious world that is too often about kill or be killed. With the apparent absence of humanity, ordinary people – just like you and me – would be forgiven for asking why they had been forsaken.
Yet there is a glimpse of salvation in this parable-like piece with the arrival of a stranger and the making of bread. An act to bring people together, to mould the necessary parts – even though initially they may seem at odds with each other – and create something good. To break bread with others irrespective of which side they’re on. A moment of peace amidst the violence and fear. A moment of reflection in spite of the surrounding noise. A moment of hope.
This is one of the most important dramatic pieces I have seen in a long time, it demands and deserves to be watched, and it stays with you long afterwards for good reason. It is powerfully yet sensitively written by Dyer with an assured, believable, and engaging performance from Reid. I felt torn by the sadness of a world created by the West through its arbitrary drawing of lines in the sand and subsequent Cold War powerplays yet filled with hope by this one simple act that offers a glimpse of light in a world replete with darkness and hate.
Storm in the North seeks to energise, beguile, and to tell the truth through making irresistible theatre for curious people. Further details https://www.storminthenorth.com/
Kevin Dyer is writing a play called ‘The Syrian Baker’ for Farnham Maltings and the material of this monologue overlaps with the material in the play. Without the Maltings’ commission this monologue would never have been written.
Filmed by Jordan Howard Pearson, edited by Pearson and Sam Ryley, and produced by Laura Duncalf, Idlib is available to view at https://www.storminthenorth.com/idlib
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 3rd July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★