Breakfast Plays: B!rth (Q & Q)

Aug 25 2017 | By More

Breakfast Plays rehearsed reading

Traverse Theatre: Tue 15 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor

Director Emma Callander brings Liwaa Yazji’s poignant Q & Q to the Traverse Theatre in a rehearsed reading as part of the Birth project.

The project aims to bring an awareness to women’s health issues through plays by leading female playwrights from around the world. Yazji’s play represents Syria as one of four plays included in the Traverse’s Breakfast Play series.

Breakfast Plays B!RTH. Pic: Michael Cranston

As a rehearsed reading, the play is stripped to its basics. There are only the actors and their seats and scripts. As Callander notes in her introduction to the play, the actors only had a day to rehearse – though it doesn’t show.

Syreeta Kumar and Abdul Salis play two government officials questioning three Syrian women who wish to gain asylum in England after escaping from their home country. These women are played by Neshla Caplan, Tessa Parr, and Jamie Marie Leary, who bring emotion to their respective roles.

The interrogation process, which tends to require the women to repeat much of the same information more than once, demonstrates the complicated and demanding process of attempting to gain a better life amidst the struggles of being a refugee. The monotony of the bureaucratic process comes up against the need for immediate assistance.

The focus here is on pregnancy and the disrespect that has been shown to these women’s bodies in their past lives. There is much discussion of the terrible ordeals the women have been through, and their desire to find loved ones.


Despite the weighty subject matter, the play sticks mostly to a portrayal of emotion, and does not attempt to preach any heavy-handed solutions to the difficult problems it examines. The purpose here is one of education—of giving a face to the women who have been affected by the refugee crisis. On this level, it admirably succeeds.

The simplicity of the play allows for the subject matter to speak for itself. The authenticity shines through in the discussions each of the women have with those who must question them.

The eventual outcome of the monotonous procedures powerfully calls attention to the fact that these stories are only three in a sea of millions. There is a sense that there is much work to be done—perhaps an impossible amount. And yet, by bringing attention to these issues, the plays of the Birth project seem poised to help contribute a valuable angle to the cultural debates surrounding the world’s birth practices.

Running time: 45 minutes
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED (Venue 15)
Breakfast Plays: B!RTH
run Tuesday 15 – Sunday 27 August, 2017
Daily: 9am.
Details and tickets from the Traverse website:!rth.aspx

The individual plays run as follows.

Choices by Stacey Gregg (UK)
Tue 15, Sat 19 & Thu 24 Aug

Ouroboros by Swati Simha (India)
Wed 16, Sun 20 & Fri 25 Aug

Q&Q by Liwaa Yazji (Syria)
Thurs 17, Tue 22 & Sat 26 Aug

So Far As A Century’s Reach by Kirsten Greenidge (USA)
Fri 18, Wed 23 & Sun 27 Aug


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