Paul Foley reviews a modern tragedy that feels like the best political theatre.
This month Home celebrates its first birthday as Manchester's vibrant cultural hub for new and innovative art, theatre and film. In the past year it has brought many weird and wonderful events to the city. Some have been more successful than others but they have been prepared to give a platform to an alternative to the mainstream theatre. Stowaway by Hannah Barker and Lewis Hetherington is a good example of the new work staged at the venue and this fine production is right up there with the best.
This is the sad telling of the horrors suffered by desperate people hoping to flee poverty. Aditya is stifled by his life of destitution in India. Promises of untold riches drive him into the arms of ruthless people-traffickers and exploitative construction companies in Dubai.He has swapped hardship for a living hell. So desperate is he that the prospect of squeezing into the wheel-arch of an aircraft heading to Heathrow appears to be a hopeful escape. Inevitably as the landing gear descends, his frozen body falls to the ground in a B&Q car park.
Although the authorities are indifferent to the man’s death — after all it’s just another dead immigrant — Andy, who finds the man’s crumpled body, cannot get the image out of his mind. He befriends Lisa, a writer who happened to be on the plane, and together they try to put some meaning to the event. Beautifully told, the excellent cast of four actors unravel the deep sadness and pathos enveloping Aditya’s life and hopes. As Lisa says, this is not just some dead stowaway, he is somebody’s son, brother and friend. Within the play we get a glimpse of the contradictions dogging modern India. A global player in world economics racing to catch up with the superpowers, yet the vast majority of its population are living in dire poverty.
This has the feel of the best political theatre of the 1970s but incorporating a modern world where communication is instantaneous but loneliness and despair shroud many lives. As austerity bites deep into theatre budgets, most venues are playing it safe with revivals of the classics. Hats off to HOME for giving a voice to new writers and being prepared to take a risk. With Stowaway they have found a real gem.
See http://homemcr.org for details on performances.
Paul Foley is a trade union activist and arts reviewer for the Morning Star.