Bridge Theatre, London
The daily epics of the refugee crisis haunt us on every bulletin: small boat crossings, lethal lorry journeys, arrests and detentions. It is right for storytellers to draw us back into the small individual realities of these lives. The novel Hinterland by Caroline Brothers imagined, from much that we know, two Afghan brothers – children – over two years making their way from Kabul via Turkey, Iran, Italy and Calais. There are treks, trains, a Mediterranean crossing. They are conned, enslaved on farms, one is raped: they meet odd kindnesses, an uncle, brutalities. They dream.
Here it is told in strange privacy to each of us, led through darkened corridors below the theatre to tiny booths and headphones, so that before each of us unrolls a carousel of dolls house dioramas, with the boys as simple models and the scenes vivid. The sounds and narrator immerse us. After months of video, film or animation and the odd unsatisfactory punt at interaction, this curiosity is movingly real. When the boys see police with their harsh foreign languages and guns they see them as angry giant seagulls, squawking. When they sleep they and we see birds in glorious flight. Bird metaphors flood through it.
It grips, provokes both sorrow and rage at the people traffickers driving the desperate. Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, who worked on Harry Potter, achieve a humbler sort of magic here. Proper theatre it feels like , alone in our tiny lonely booths, looking out at a harsh world, transported with pity and terror.