THE RETURN at the Cockpit Theatre
“another thought-provoking production in the Voila! Europe Festival“
Performer Natasha Stanic Mann presents a devised solo piece called The Return as part of The Cockpit Theatre’s Voila Europe! 2022 Festival. With the assistance of a group of international artists, Stanic Mann has put together a short show, performed in English and Croatian, which explores the hidden consequences of war, and the migrations that are often the result of blood-soaked conflict.
Stanic Mann is an engaging artist. She welcomes us in her world with smiles and humour, music and dance. This lightness of touch is essential when one considers that the story she tells us is really one of tragedy heaped upon tragedy. The Return is the story of her family, who have been involved in not just one migration as the result of war, but many. It’s a common experience in what used to be known as Eastern Europe—and Natasha, as she introduces herself—gives us a quick lesson in the complicated geography of that region. It begins in Ukraine with her great grandparents, moves to Bosnia where her father was born, and then Croatia. Bosnia and Croatia used to be part of one country, and Natasha also educates us about the harrowing breakup of Yugoslavia, told through the experiences of one who lived it. At every step, Natasha deals with the difficulties of moving countries, languages, cultures—not helped by petty bureaucrats in each new situation. She has come onto the stage barefoot, she tells us, because bare feet are a metaphor for migrants. This is heavy material, but at any moment, Natasha engages our attention, and our sympathy, with a Czech folk song, Doris Day singing Che sera, sera, or a poem from her own Croatia. The Return will be an eye opener for anyone whose family has been rooted in the same spot for hundreds of years. The Return is also a reminder that war can come back at any moment to uproot the lives of a new generation.
This is rich, compelling material for a drama. If anything, fifty-five minutes is not really long enough to get to grips with it, in a way that is completely satisfying. But given that this is a solo performance, Stanic Mann makes a good beginning in the time allowed. Assisted by director Andres Velasquez, and artistic collaborators Filomena Campus, Emily Harwood, Steve North and Valentino Nioi, Stanic Mann engages directly with her audience. There is very little in the way of staging. Instead, she readily approaches audience members, asking questions, introducing songs and poems in a friendly, one to one way. She makes her points lightly. It is the lighting (Josephine Tremelling) and sound (Chris Prosho) that adds the darker, more tragic mood.
The Return is another thought-provoking production in the Voila! Europe Festival, and an opportunity to see some of Europe’s most intriguing emerging companies and their latest work.
If the work of Natasha Stanic Mann and her fellow artists, and other, equally experimental companies, appeals to you, keep an eye open for future festivals like this one at the Cockpit Theatre.
Reviewed on 13th November 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Previously reviewed at this venue: