(There Are) No Strangers Here

September 10, 2022 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆       Poetic

Scottish Storytelling Centre: Fri 9-Sat 10 Sept 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

(There Are) No Strangers Here, a lively and pointed new piece from local community writing group, One Foot in the Future, is at the Netherbow theatre for three performances only.

The play is set in a remote Scottish community. It imagines a future where climate refugees are welcomed into the UK, and billeted on people who have a spare room – or two. As issue-based drama it is a success – up to a point.

Eve Dagba (Maryam) and Firas Ibrahim (Ziad).

The focus is on two couples. Husband and wife: pensioners Danny and Agnes are surprised to learn that they will have to take in two refugees. Father and daughter refugees, Zaid and Maryam are relieved to be safely away from their flooded country, but still bristling with the danger they have endured.

This is most effective when it wears its message lightly, either using the writers’ lived or imaged experience, or when examining the friction of misunderstanding between the characters.

Firas Ibrahim’s Zaid brings a hard-fought poetry to his opening monologue, one of three which alternate to set the scene. He reflects on arriving cold and frightened on a strange shore, the magic sound of the fiddle heard, wafting over the rocks.

pathos and anger

Eve Dagba has a real pathos but also an undercurrent of anger as the heavily pregnant Maryam, tired and sore from walking in wet, oversized shoes packed with paper that has balled under her feet.

It falls to Isabella Jarrett as Agnes to provide the comedy of recognition, complaining on the phone to her daughter at having to take in strangers and shouting up to Danny to find his hearing aids. There is an immediate depth here, with deft throwaway lines that convey much more than they actually say.

Isabella Jarrett (Agnes) and Paul Wilson (Danny)

Director Mark Kydd gives the production enough space to ensure that the ensuing growing-together of the two couples works particularly well, as their attitudes to each other change and are shown to be far more complex than first appears. The depiction of two cultures clashing is perhaps a little heavy handed but it achieves its purpose.

Paul Wilson brings is a nicely-worked stoic Scottish realism to Danny, grumpy at his wife, able to confide in Zaid about his bad back but growing unnecessarily jealous when Zaid and Agnes start getting along.

While the piece jumps quickly between many scenes, the simple set and sensible lighting from Roddy Simpson ensures that it flows well. Laure Paterson’s original music is evocative, the sound design being particularly effective in a scene when Maryam is telling of how she lost her husband.

background

If the climate change issues work very well as background, lines about the value of older people in society are just dropped too bluntly into the script, without having a natural place. The role these older people have in helping younger folk is already clear and its reinforcement feels laid on too thick.

Which is the only major failing in Hilary Spiers, Laure Paterson, Susan Chaney and Richard Peoples’s otherwise excellent script There may be elements, such as the rebuilding of Danny’s shed, which could be explored in more depth, while the near-cataclysmic final event is hurried. But these are offset by its strong observations and some moments that are truly poetic.

A lively piece of well-performed and staged community drama which explores issues that will only become more resonant in the near future.

Running time: 50 minutes
Scottish Storytelling Centre (Netherbow Theatre), 43-45 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR.
Friday 9 – Saturday 10 September 2022
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat Matinee: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

ENDS

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