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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Donmar Warehouse Theatre   Summer 2019

David Greig's 1994 drama is a generally sombre acknowledgement of the lives of some people often overlooked by the rest of the world, its conclusion not much more than one character's assertion that 'We are Europe too.'

Its broad scope and dispassionate observational tone lack the sharpness a more tightly focused outrage might have had, and Michael Longhurst's slow-moving and meandering direction of this revival adds to the sense of general and enervating glumness.

It's heavy going for a summer's evening.

The play is set in a middle-of-nowhere town somewhere on the continent, such a dying place that the trains no longer stop there and (in a resonant image) the express goes by too fast to read the town name on the deserted station.

Along with a handful of residents we meet a couple of 'economic migrants' pausing to catch their breath on a journey headed vaguely westward. And while the play doesn't say they're all in the same boat, it recognises that they're all in boats of some sort, none of them (to strain my metaphor) with any guarantee of seaworthiness.

Among the locals are a couple eager to leave and a couple who drift into the blame-it-all-on-foreigners ultra-right. One of the travellers finds an unexpected opportunity to set down roots while another moves on with renewed but not blind hope of something better.

A couple of characters die pointlessly, and the world outside notices none of it.

The challenge for a play like this is making us care, and neither playwright Greig nor director Longhurst is particularly successful at it, neo-Brechtian devices like act-opening choruses and titled scenes just separating us further from the characters.

This is in spite of some attractive performances, particularly by Faye Marsay as the local most desperate to leave, Natalia Tena as the migrant in whose rootlessness she sees freedom, Ron Cook as the stationmaster disoriented by the loss of his calling, and Kevork Malikyan as the outsider with whom he finds an unexpected connection.

As that short list suggests, you are likely to find more to attract your interest and sympathy in the personal stories than in their geopolitical implications.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Europe - Donmar Theatre 2019
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