Wednesday 9 November 2016. A day that will go down in history, but for all the wrong reasons. I’d stayed up half the night, so it wasn’t the same big shock in the morning for me as it was for a lot of people, but waking up to the final confirmation of President-Elect Trump will live long in everyone’s memories. So, what to do on a day like that? I’d been invited to review Althea Theatre’s There’s No Place Like that evening, and it turned out to be one of the best things I could’ve done.
The play is an original story by artistic director Lilac Yosiphon, which was first performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival last year, transferring to the Arts Theatre in London’s West End, and then touring internationally prior to its two-show run as part of Live at Zédel. The show follows Hannah, an immigrant who was a teacher in her home country but didn’t feel like she belonged there – so is now working in a London pub. Jordan is on the brink of a life-changing decision, following the loss of his mum & his job within six months of each other. He arrives at Hannah’s pub; their conversation helps him to realise he already knows what he wants to do – and it’s an encounter that stays with him through his new life.
An intriguing thing about this play is that it doesn’t have a set. All it needs is an appropriate venue to work around and the story does the rest. This chimes well with the themes of the play, as well as having a practical significance for touring. For this particular run, the full beauty of the Crazy Coqs part of the building can be shown off & admired – and if that’s where Hannah has to work, you can see why she likes it (though purely from an aesthetic point of view).
One beautiful part of the story is Hannah’s song (the subject she taught was music). Jordan jokingly threatens to report her to the Home Office unless she teaches him a song, and in response she sings this:
For my song is a leaf in the wind, My letter send from within, Flow of my strength My laughter, my tears, The end of my misery, It is you coming back to me. Darkness all around, How I wish I could hear your sound Maybe maybe maybe, you are coming back to me. Maybe maybe maybe, you are coming back to me…
Later on they sing together, her in Hebrew & him in English – a moment that shows their common humanity. They may be different nationalities, but they both are going through similar things.
In light of the two recent big political decisions that have been made, in the EU Referendum & the US Presidential Election, each allusion to immigration & politics is so pertinent.
Yosiphon herself stars as Hannah, alongside Sam Elwin as Jordan. The pair are well-suited, particularly when the characters get comfortable enough in each other’s company to start teasing & joking around. Their musical performance (accompanied by Marcus Ridely-Frewin on acoustic guitar) is a tender & touching moment.
At the end of the performance, Yosiphon marked the significance of the times we live in by calling upon us all to build bridges – her sentiments about working together marked a hopeful end to an unsettling day.
My verdict? A touching piece about belonging, and what we consider to make something our ‘home’ – just the tonic for an uncertain political climate.
There’s No Place Like ran at Live at the Zédel on 8 & 9 November 2016.