DramaNorth WestReview

Stowaway – HOME, Manchester

Writer/Director: Hannah Barker and Lewis Hetherington

Reviewer: Katherine Kirwin

A stowaway freezes to death hidden in the wheel arch of a plane from Dubai, a recently redundant man witnesses his fall to earth, a crime-fiction writer sits in business-class unaware of what is going on beneath her feet. Analogue capture a modern world in which our lives intersect and affect each other, where the haves and have-nots live a stone’s throw from each other, where #firstworldproblems take dominance.

The cast of four actors perform the story of the stowaway and those who are affected by his demise; primarily with the narrative of Andy (Steven Rae) who discovers the body and Lisa (Hannah Donaldson), who was in the comfort of the plane from which he fell. They are both driven to seek out the truth of this occurrence; what drove this man to stowaway, why was he flying from Dubai but Indian in nationality, what story does he have to tell? This ultimately leads the audience to the ‘flashback’ telling of how they imagine the stowaway was led, by circumstances and choices, to his decision to get on that plane.

This production is neatly fragmented in its telling of the character’s different stories, switching between past and present, naturalistic and abstract representations of events. The steel carcass of a set acts as a playground for movement but also works beautifully as both the inside of a plane and the towering skyscrapers over Dubai. The performances are strong and each actor takes on many roles, including lighting technicians and voiceovers at points. The soundscapes and movement work well to create the sense of the continuing outside world, the interjections of news stories and context to the human drama.

Analogue question the purpose of storytelling and the embellishment of facts or assumed knowledge to tell the stories of refugees. This is done quite blatantly in a book-tour questioning of Lisa, quizzing whether she has any right, as a privileged white woman, to tell this stowaway’s story. Although an interesting point, the conclusion seemingly reached is that someone needed to bear witness… but it seems a shame to not aspire to more – to tell a story and to create art in order to inspire change, to provoke thought, to galvanise its audience.

Ultimately, this show feels intellectual and considered in its approach to the subject matter but it just doesn’t feel fired-up. Given that the refugee crisis is a pressing and troubling matter in all European minds at the moment, it could do with an injection of passion. However, no one knows how to tackle the refugee crisis in real life, let alone in art, so perhaps any attempt deserves applauding for venturing to go where many fear to tread. At least, this production has gotten its audience thinking about the person behind the figure you read about in the papers.

Reviewed on 5 May 2016 | Image: Contributed

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