Written by Anders Lustgarten
Presented by HighTide Festival Theatre and Soho Theatre in association with Unity Theatre
Unity Theatre, Hope Place
23rd September - 3rd October 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

All In The Same Boat

'Lampedusa lies in the Mediterranean Sea midway between the Island of Sicily and the North African coastlines of Tunisia and Libya, both war torn and devastated countries. Driven by unceasing conflict, poverty, homelessness and despair on the African continent they have become focal points for all those fleeing to a seemingly better life in Europe.'

On entering the auditorium comes the first shock to the senses. The audience sits on circular concentric seats with a central small space. and the alleyways reserved as a stage for the actors, who occupy two of the innermost places themselves.

Next shock, the lighting from Elliot Griggs stays on and is enhanced when required, which allowed the shock and awe on peoples faces to be seen in graphic detail. We are all in this particular boat together as HighTide & Festival Theatre's Director Stephen Atkinson's seventy minute one act take on Anders Lustgarten's dialogue hits home, wave upon wave.

The play begins with a monologue from Stefano (Stephen Elder) that it was always the case that the old trading routes brought fortunate Carthaginians and Byzantines to Italy aplenty; today's insidious people trafficking routes though offer only last chance life or death outcomes. Now the struggling fisherman's nets are witness to a very different catch.

How to describe the dead bodies hauled out of the sea - asylum seekers? Refugees? Economic migrants? Chancers? Illegal immigrants? It all depends on your politics and whether you are inside the tent or not. Then there is the problem of what to do with those pulled out alive from the endless tide of human misery.

Enter Denise (Loise Mai Newberry), whose thankless task is to traipse from door to door trying to collect extortionate loan shark payments on a sink estate in London. She relates the frustration and hatred of old ladies like her mum, who see any admitted newcomers as being treated better than their miserable discounted lives.

The action ebbs and flows powerfully between the duo in astonishing bursts of invective and pathos, as the audience is engulfed by emotional tirades and the mind numbing statistics that accompany them.

What becomes apparent is that ultimately the worst off and the disadvantaged everywhere bear the brunt of aggressive foreign policy, civil war, economic austerity, and the right for a better life.

The lights do go down with Denise, speculating that we can only 'hope' that the best humanitarian instincts come to the fore to unblock the impasse.

Given recent events who knows?

Drama at it's best.

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