Cargo by Tess Berry-Hart
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL
Performance Dates Wednesday 6th July – Saturday 6th August 2016
Monday – Saturday, 8pm
Saturday matinees, 3.30pm
Box Office Tickets are available from www.arcolatheatre.com and on 020 7503 1646 priced £17 (£14)
2 Stars **
(Review by Richard Lambert)
The audience appeared to predominantly comprise white middle class 20 year olds who probably have little personal experience of the immigrant crisis. Immigration Crisis for entertainment? Hmm, I struggle with this concept. Immigration Crisis for education? Yes, that’s better. But why then try to turn the crisis upside down and have White British folks fleeing the UK? Does it work like this? No, unfortunately not! – more jazz hands than punch! Tell it how it is so it’s real!
This production will make you think about the crisis on a more personal level. I would have liked the script to be more of an education about real current politics and less “fiction loosely based on fact” so that it had more of a home run! It stands as a prevocative piece of theatre that could hit harder but slightly misses. Facts rather than a fantasy story would sharply focus this production.
With a running time of 80 minutes, no break, and the show starting late, it’s a long time to be sat on wooden pallets in a fully immersive set. You’re in a hot corrugated iron box set. It succeeds as a container. It is uncomfortable – but perhaps that’s the point. The aisles are cluttered with audience members’ bags and the egress is littered with copper kettle drums and similar cargo items. I would not want to be in this space if there was an evacution.
The lighting (Christopher Nairne) was text book. You saw what you’re supposed to in a dim manner that’s suitable for balancing the claustrophobic atmosphere with the need to see the actors. It’s a shame this was achieved by a theatre fixture inventory rather than adding set elements such as bulkhead light fixtures that you’d find in the cargo bay of a container ship. There is a mobile phone who’s light adds an effect.
The Sound scape (Max Pappenheim) was very good. It underscored and enhanced appropriately. Volume levels spot on!
Gripping performance from John Schwab playing Kayffe. Quite happy for him to stay the other side of the floor clutter! Debbie Korley’s portrayal of Sarah was solid. Yes I believed Iz (Jack Gouldbourne) and Joey (Milly Thomas) were White and British but their council estate accents, which occasionally slipped, did little to make me feel they were truly refugees in crisis.
Photo credit: Mark Douet