Tag Archives: Sarah Agha

The Net

★★½

Tristan Bates Theatre

The Net

The Net

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 16th August 2019

★★½

 

No doubt, this is still a very relevant and prevalent story. But the manner in which it has been tackled seems a bit reductive …

 

This is the age-old story of ‘us versus them’. Directed by Samara Gannon, The Net is set on an unnamed contested piece of land divided by a wall, a pair of women on each side laying their claim. The land is barren, but still the fight goes on. One side says they “feel” that this is their land, that it’s time they took what was rightfully theirs; the other argues that their villages were razed to the ground, that this was, until recently, their home.

No doubt, this is still a very relevant and prevalent story. But the manner in which it has been tackled seems a bit reductive, having two sides of the argument come so plainly to the table, and ending up almost exactly where you would expect, with everyone having some kind of revelation about their enemies, notwithstanding a little bloodshed along the way. Granted, The Net takes a slight curve in the normal plot trajectory, but it’s not shocking enough that we don’t see what’s round the bend.

The staging (Sally Sommerville-Woodiwis) is quite beautiful: a patchwork of mismatching fishing nets, intertwined with trinkets and what look like either crystal balls or Christmas baubles, make up the dividing wall. This serves both to explain how one might conceivably break through, and to allow the audience to see both sides. The fact of it being made by something so easily broken isn’t really addressed, but it’s much of a muchness – the wall is there, people are afraid to break through, other people are afraid that they might.

There are abundant sound effects (Ruth Sullivan), denoting the closing in of the unseen army, or splices between the present moment and individual monologues, but very often it’s unclear what these sounds are supposed to be. Coursing electricity is used, for example, to bring us back to the conflict at hand, with no correlation to the plot. The sound of body-slaps (I think?) and whispers is used as an undercurrent for a couple of monologues, but again, I don’t understand their relevance.

The production extols its inclusion of all ages in the telling of this story, “from 16 to 70”. Sue Moore, playing da Silva’s grandmother, is a wonderful addition in theory. Unfortunately, her range is limited from mild annoyance all the way to mild frustration. She does push herself in one emotionally vexing monologue recounting her daughter’s death, but the moment is short-lived.

Sarah Agha, at the other end of the age range (I’m presuming she’s sixteen), expresses her character’s ongoing trauma and naivety faithfully. Yvonne Wan and Marta de Silva are similarly engaging. Though all three performances are a little overwrought at times, I can’t see how it could be avoided in this narrative. Whilst this experience would no doubt be extremely stressful, keeping the emotional anxiety at eleven all the way through the play is quite exhausting.

This is certainly a story that needs telling, but it feels a little like something that should tour disputed borders, or secondary schools, rather than performing to an already (mostly) left-leaning London crowd. This kind of story should provoke a response, but instead the audience leaves feeling much the same about such conflicts as they did when they entered.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ewa Ferdynus

 

Camden Fringe

The Net

Tristan Bates Theatre until 17th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Sad About The Cows | ★★ | May 2019
The Luncheon | ★★★ | June 2019
To Drone In The Rain | ★★ | June 2019
Class | ★★★★ | July 2019
Sorry Did I Wake You | ★★★★ | July 2019
The Incident Pit | ★½ | July 2019
When It Happens | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Boris Rex | ★★ | August 2019
All The Little Lights | ★★★★★ | August 2019
The Geminus | ★★ | August 2019

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The Sleeper – 3 Stars

Sleeper

The Sleeper

The Space

Reviewed – 4th April 2018

★★★

“sometimes its cleverness is confusing, and occasionally the dialogue does become repetitive”

 

At the height of the refugee crisis, in 2015, over seven hundred people drowned in one morning crossing the Mediterranean on the hazardous boat trip from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa. They were just a part of the mass Syrian exodus trying to reach Europe, handing over control of their lives to fate, knowing that there was only a slim chance of ever getting it back. For those lucky enough to reach dry land, the next step on their journey was hopping on the overnight train to Paris; a direct route between the countries, which has become known as the “train of second chances”.

This night train is the setting for “The Sleeper”, written and directed by Henry C. Krempels, currently running at The Space following its debut in Edinburgh last year. Drawn from his experiences of riding that train himself as research for a commissioned magazine article, this slick and powerful theatre piece revolves around Karina, a white, British traveller; Amena – a Syrian refugee without papers or passport, or money; and the officious guard on board the train.

And ‘revolve’ is what the drama does. The story frequently finds itself back at the beginning, allowing us to observe the events from differing viewpoints – our own shifting perceptions being cleverly swayed each time the characters subtly reshape the narrative.

Karina (Michelle Fahrenheim) reports a refugee (Sarah Agha) hiding in her bunk on the overnight train in Europe. Fahrenheim brilliantly captures that very English mix of obsequiousness and hauteur. Is she really trying to help or is she just a professional complainer looking for a quick upgrade to first class? Joshua Jacob, as the French guard, is the voice of authority. Unbending in his commitment to ‘following procedure’ he chillingly reminds us of the historical dangers of taking this edict to the extreme. But the shining light is Agha’s strong portrayal of the refugee. Initially mute, she eventually seizes the narrative for herself. Even at one point totally smashing down the fourth wall and stopping the action, stepping out of character, and questioning the other two ‘white’ actors’ right to be involved in the telling of what is, after all, her story. “A play is not going to solve the refugee crisis!” she pointedly laments.

This self-awareness in the writing keeps the piece entertaining and avoids the pitfalls of diatribe, but sometimes its cleverness is confusing, and occasionally the dialogue does become repetitive. But, despite an overly drawn-out conclusion, this is an important piece of theatre: thought-provoking and illuminating. The cyclical structure reminds us that there is always more than one way of looking at things. Krempels challenges our preconceptions about the crisis and allows us to absorb the fact that there is “no single solution”. Again – like the play itself – that can be interpreted in more than one way.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Anima Theatre Company

 


The Sleeper

The Space until 14th April

 

 

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