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Routes, Royal Court – Review

Rachel Delahay
Directed by Simon Godwin
★★★★

Pros: Great writing supported by strong performances and pared-back but excellent direction.

Cons: Nothing. This is a very good play that I found both enjoyable and moving.

Our Verdict: These poignant intertwined stories about migration manage to be simultaneously funny, hard-hitting and emotionally truthful. Go see it!

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Routes follows two parallel stories. In one, a Nigerian man named Olufemi is desperately trying to acquire the necessary papers to get back to the UK where he has left his wife and children. In the other, we watch a friendship develop between Bashir, a Somali-born British-raised orphan, and a mixed-race boy called Kola.

Olufemi was thrown out of the UK when he got into a negligible pub brawl, and at the start of the play has to buy a new identity from an agent to get back into the country and see his family again. Bashir discovers on his eighteenth birthday that he is not technically a British citizen and that he will be deported back to Somalia. His only potential way out is to sit in a detention centre as his case is appealed by Anka, a migrant from Eastern Europe who voluntarily helps people like Bashir to navigate the immigration system.

Bashir and Kola’s situations, and their blossoming friendship, are the most moving and well-drawn bits of the play. This is partly due to some fine acting by Fiston Barek and Calvin Demba. When the two boys are forced to share a room in a hostel, they start out wary and aggressive towards each other, but we quickly realise that they are both lonely and scared. Their growing affection is truly well done: it’s believable, funny, touching and eventually heart-breaking.

The various strands of Routes are all engaging, affecting, well-intertwined, and on the whole add up to more than the sum of their parts, without delivering a trite moral. This play gives a human face to the statistics we hear about illegal immigration and deportation. Highly recommended!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Routes runs at the Royal Court Theatre until 12 October 2013. 
Box Office: 020 7565 5000 or book online at http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/routes

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