There isn’t much more of a hot topic at the moment than that of refugees, as the crisis in Ukraine intensifies. However, as many have been quick to point out, this is far from the only country feeling the effects of war in March 2022. PSYCHEdelight’s new show, Mohand & Peter, focuses on the troubles facing people in Sudan; unusually (but brilliantly) it makes the choice to look at the everyday things that refugees from that country miss when they are forced to relocate. It’s a true celebration of a culture which will probably be unfamiliar to many in the audience – it certainly is to Mohand’s friend, Peter, who accompanies him on this nostalgic journey.
Mohand escaped from Sudan and is now living in London, where he met Peter (who is originally from Newcastle). The pair of them are keen performers and plan to put on a show; after improvising some scenarios on the spot (such as walking on the moon), Mohand asks if they could make a show about his home country instead. By the power of his imagination (and a smattering of theatrical magic), the pair of them are soon in the heat of Khartoum trying to reach the bus that goes to Mohand’s village – and it’s far too sunny for someone of Peter’s complexion. Before he knows it, Mohand has dressed him more appropriately for Sudan’s weather, and they’re off to meet his rather large extended family, where Peter can experience some of the more day-to-day customs first-hand.
Understandably, most stories involving refugees tend to focus on the horrors they are running from and how difficult it can be to reach (& stay in) safety, so a show like this is quite a breath of fresh air. Most people will miss their home at some point or other, whether they’ve been forced to leave or left of their own volition, and with that brings an opportunity to celebrate all the things you love about your country or city/town/village: the food, the weather, the sights, the family you left behind. Peter even experiences a pang of longing for the north-east of England when it all gets too much for him on the imaginary trip around Sudan – it’s a completely universal thing. Perhaps sharing more stories like this will get through to those who still need convincing of the need to welcome refugees with open arms.
The love Mohand has for Sudan shines through, as he lovingly re-creates the experience of crossing the road, meeting the family, and standing up for your beliefs at a public protest. The sound design is also vitally important here; created by Remy Bertrand, it incorporates recordings of Mohand’s friends & family back in Sudan and envelopes the performance space – you really do feel like you’ve gone on that journey with them, and that sun made of a taar (a type of frame drum) starts to look suspiciously like the real thing.
Peter Pearson and Mohand Hasb Alrosol Abdalrahem have previously worked together on PSYCHEdelight’s Borderline and Welcome To The UK, and that foundation really plays its part in this slightly surreal buddy story; their bond is key as they navigate the highs and lows of life in Sudan, and seek to understand each other better. Mohand’s animated characterisation of several of his family members is a real highlight, both for the comedy value and the love that has clearly gone into bringing them to the stage. Peter is a great foil for Mohand, asking all the questions in our minds and getting to see Sudan through his friend’s eyes. The pair are brilliantly entertaining, and also moving during the more serious and emotional moments. Really worth an hour of your time.
My verdict? Mohand’s love letter to Sudan is an entertaining & enlightening show – as timely as it ever could be.
Mohand & Peter runs at Southwark Playhouse (The Little) until 2 April 2022. Tickets are available online.