Lampedusa

(reviewed at the HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh on 12 September)

This new play by Anders Lustgarten is a searing indictment of two contemporary evils, one national and the other international. It is a piece for two voices, one that of Stefano, a Sicilian fisherman whose work has degenerated from catching fish to feed people to pulling the bodies of dead migrants from the Mediterranean – that sea around whose shores western civilisation first took root.

The other character is Denise, who works for a pay-day loan company collecting overdue repayments. In its way, it is equally soul-destroying, but she has an invalid mother to support (much as the DWP would like to declare her fit for work, and thus save paying disability benefits). Anyway, her employers reckon that a woman has a better chance of success in collecting money than a man.

Because the writing is strong and committed, I kept on feeling – in spite of Steven Atkinson’s production and the excellent performances by Steven Elder (Stefano) and Louise Mai Newberry (Denise) – that this would work much better on radio without the visual distractions furnished by a theatre-in-the-round production.

At the end, both characters are offered a glimpse of hope – Stefano through finding alive the wife of a distraught migrant, Denise through the kindness of a Portuguese woman client. But Lustgarten makes us aware that these are mere firefly glimmers in an increasingly dark world. We are never far from decay, even on the seashore.

Lampedusa continues in repertoire at the HighTide Dome until 19 September.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2015

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