Writer: Kristina Gavran
Director: Tilly Branson
Reviewer: Hannah Powell
What does home mean for those whose lives are left precariously in the balance by looming post-Brexit Britain? Notnow Collective present the premiere of their new one-woman show Pepper & Honey on the day after the UK was planned to leave the European Union.
Twelve Years, Seven rented apartments, Five jobs, and three different cities: Pepper & Honey is the story of Ana, a young Croatian woman on a journey of self-discovery determined to make a home for herself in the UK. Choosing to focus on cementing her life here, she is plagued by the memories and the voice of her Grandma calling her home to the island: the place where she supposedly truly belongs. We watch as Ana’s life is left on the edge as she waits in agony for her application of settlement to return and battles with her own identity and the mixing of cultures.
Beautifully written by Kristina Gavran, we are taken on a journey through a perspective some, as British-born, might not have considered so deeply in today’s political climate. What effect does the decision we have made have on those, who although not having been born here, have contributed to our society for maybe even longer than some of us have been born? For those who have immigrated here from other countries, raised multicultural families here, the question of what home is has never been more prominent.
Tina Hofman does a splendid job of breathing life into the story, embodying both Ana and her grandmother effortlessly through her body language and vocal tones. We as an audience are not simply watching a play, we are being invited into someone’s home and life as it is presented before us. We are transported to Croatia through different scents and sounds, sounds which sometimes can be slightly overbearing but are beautiful just the same. We sit, drink, eat, and even bake with both Ana and her grandma delighting in their stories and our differences in culture. The entire piece is also BSL interpreted by The Difference Engine, further adding to this idea of welcome and inclusivity
Everything is intrinsically linked through this idea of pepper biscuits, a baked good made from scratch by Ana’s grandmother, one that she used over many years to call her husband back home to her – and she is convinced she can do the same with Ana. “Do not forget the pepper”. It’s the idea that the recipe for life is both sweet and spicy, it must leave a tickle in your mouth after each bite. You must take the good with the bad for together they create a beautiful blend of happiness which just melts in the mouth.
With so much anger present in today’s society and a solid focus on that which divides us from each other, this piece feels appropriately written at the right time when people are listening and waiting in anticipation of what is to come. It’s a beautifully written story full of love, loss, an exploration of cultures and, most importantly, new beginnings. There was not a dry eye in the house by the end. Overall it was just simply…lovely.
Reviewed on 30 March 2019 | Image: Marcus Fernando