Streaming as part of the Living Record Festival, this audio play by Bernadett Szabo, for Peripeteia Theatre Company takes inspiration from the recent people trafficking scandal resulting in 39 deaths.
After a bit of scene-setting from news reports of the time, we are in the lorry. Cold, dark, full of people all hoping for a new life. We can hear the sound of the vehicle on its journey, and somewhere inside, a woman is reaching out to her mum.
It is an attempt to humanise a series of what the trial of those convicted of the manslaughter of those who died called “excruciatingly painful deaths” from suffocation.
We only hear the voices of performers Alex Douglas and Alecia Maddox: no visuals of any kind, just a black screen. The surround sound is best experienced with headphones in an otherwise quiet place.
Mum, Can You Hear Me? highlights the cost to families of such catastrophes: where desperation for a better life puts both young and old in danger. We hear, in the preamble, of final, desperate phone calls, of lack of breath, of plain fear.
Directed by Adam Cachia, with sound design by Áron Gyenge, this play runs in four acts across 38 minutes. It’s a pitiful goodbye, just one story of many.
In choosing this quiet approach rather than the chaos of hysteria, attempts to escape, and mass panic, it may lose a bit of power but is a tense piece of drama with persuasive performances. It pulls back the curtain to look beyond the headlines.
Mum, Can You Hear Me? is available until 22 February as part of the Living Record Festival.