Book/Music/Lyrics: Dan Allum
Director: Amy Hodge
Reviewer: Tom Finch
Oceania is a dying breed of Romani gypsy, believing unwaveringly in the stories, rites and mythologies of her ancestors. In her camp in the forest she lives with her son, Roman telling stories. Oceania’s world is under threat from the 21st century. Soon the arrival of a young girl who after falling in love with Roman and marrying him triggers what could be the end of an ancient way of life.
Played out on Takis’ evocative set of sand and branches, the action is fast and mostly extremely gripping. Robyn Moore plays Oceania with a thick cockney drawl. Her anger and genuine failure to comprehend the modern world is both frustrating and heartbreaking. Samuel Edward-Cook brings real power to the rôle of her son Roman. He carefully plays out the character’s internal struggle with an eloquence that avoids him becoming labelled as a thug.
Scarlett Brookes shines as Sophie, Roman’s bride. Her transition from curious youngster to downtrodden wife, fighting for a culture she doesn’t completely understand is deeply compelling.
Special mention must go to Sarah Dowling’s choreography which ranges from celebratory dances to a superb fight scene which is as inspiring as it is distressing to watch. Amy Hodges’ succinct direction keeps the action moving along and the stylised, musically covered scene changes are equally as engaging as the scenes themselves.
Dan Allum has written a play which exposes the weakness in all of its characters beautifully. However at just under an hour it does feel slightly to brief and while economy is always welcome in drama, the story and the characters could be well served by a little more fleshing out. The music and songs evoke the beauty of Romani music and are interplayed well within the action.
As the play reaches its inevitable, maybe slightly predictable ending the stage is transformed from a peaceful clearing to a barricade, a final refuge for a culture misunderstood and at risk of being forgotten. It’s not an easy watch but it’s definitely worthwhile.
Photo: Alex Beckett | Runs until 8th March, then touring,