Lesbos: spanish life guards

Lesbos: spanish life guards

Image by Tim Lüddemann

Daniel Nelson

Suddenly there’s a spurt of dramas (and in the case of Home on TV, comedies) about refugees who emerge from vehicles to find themselves in Britain.

Here’s another. In Don’t Look Away it’s Bradford that’s at the end of Syrian teenager Adnan’s journey to safety, Home Office bureaucracy and family complications: his own family and that of community centre cleaner Cath, who decides not to look away and who takes him in to her home.

She’s not well-off but she has a little space because her has husband has died (they had already split up) and her student son, Jamie, seems to have moved out.

When son unexpectedly returns, the fate of the two families collide.

It’s a simple set-up and utterly credible.  There’s a touch of stiffness in the moments when playwright Grace Chapman determinedly works in the details of the restrictions and problems faced by asylum-seekers, but the dialogue is deft and the three characters’ dilemmas — particularly the mother-son relationship - are movingly brought to life.

At 90 minutes, this is a tiny, modest slice of refugee life and though Adnan's situation is more dramatic, Cath's is explored more subtly.

Chapman has said she wrote the piece because of a refugee refugee "adoption" in her own family: "This play is incredibly pertinent to me both on a personal and political level. Having witnessed first-hand the vacuum of support created by the UK’s ‘hostile environment’, I was inspired to tell the story of those individuals, including my family, striving to rectify this,” she has been reported as saying.

She has quietly succeeded in raising the ethical issue of personal responsibility when confronted by human need but planting it firmly within the context of our mixed motives and the varying impacts of our decisions.

 * Don't Look Away is at the Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, N7, £E16/£14, until 18 May. Info: 7609 1800/ info@pleasance.co.uk

blog comments powered by Disqus