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The Fear of Breathing – Finborough Theatre, London

Director/interviewer: Zoe Lafferty

Interviewers: Ruth Sherlock and Paul Wood

Reviewer: Sarah Nutland


The Fear of Breathing is The Finborough Theatre’s gripping new play about the Syrian revolution, told by those living through it. Award winning journalists Ruth Sherlock and Paul Wood travelled covertly in to Syria to capture the reality of the situation and with director Zoe Lafferty have created this gutsy and evocative play.

The verbatim stories are weaved together wonderfully to make a production that forces you to sit up and listen to the oppression suffered by the Syrian people. The stories mirror one another and overlap well, with scenes and situations seamlessly splicing together.

It’s easy to feel removed from the situation in Syria as you watch or read news reports on television or the internet. This play strips away that distance by removing language and accent barriers and you witness the stories inches away; human to human. The actors portray these courageous people so believably and with such conviction that you are totally absorbed in to their world. In particular, Sirine Saba gives a very moving performance during a monologue as a mother about her daughter being killed.

It’s the human angle of this play that makes it so deeply affecting.A sense of fear runs through the piece and at times the scenes make very uncomfortable viewing, especially those of torture which are fiercely realistic. This documentary style of verbatim theatre helps to hit home that these are real people and real stories. The news footage that punctuates the action on TV screens around the stage acts as a reminder of this.

Everything works about this play, from the set and soundscape, to the exceptionally compelling nature of the stories. The immediacy of theatre brings it alive and transfixes your attention on the issue. In short, this is the most powerful, chilling and thought provoking piece of theatre on stage now. It’s fast paced, devastating and utterly captivating.

Photo: Richard Davenport

Runs until 11th August

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