Pros: This important play puts a spotlight on current social issues that many are fortunate not to be affected by.
Cons: The performances let the subject matter down.
Suitcase Civilians, champions of “clear, intimate” theatre that can be easily transferred to a myriad of venues and situations, have taken over The Space in the Isle of Dogs: a converted church, with a charming bar upstairs.
The performance space was intimate, with audience side-on to the stage and facing each other over an empty walkway, but the high ceilings gave the place a sense of grandeur. With only 35 seats available, I was disappointed to see only half of the seats filled, but there was a definite sense of intrigue in the air.
Citizen uses interviews with Iranian migrants to present an informative snapshot of the desperate situations they have been forced into. Some fabulous accent work from one of the cast members gave us political background from Malcolm Turnbull and Boris Johnson, and made us laugh before we were invited to think, to feel. We jumped between a few stories, such as the well-known imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Behrouz Boochani writing from his limbo on Manus Island, and individuals affected by Trump’s infamous Muslim Ban.
Some of the stories told were obviously personal to the cast members, and it was easy to be drawn in to the troubling feelings. But most of the stories were unfortunately not as well conveyed as they could have been: the times when all three of the cast were active were engaging, but a lot of moments were individual and intended to be intimate but came across instead as a little shy. In the deceptively big space we were in it was also quite hard to hear all the soft-spoken text.
The execution aside, this production is brave and shines a necessary spotlight on the global issue of citizenship and belonging. A heartfelt note from the director explains:
My hope in sharing the stories captured in CITIZEN is that we can look beyond preconceptions of foreign lands and their citizens, and instead appreciate what makes us all human. For me, I’ve discovered there’s three main things that bind us all, regardless of where we come from: family, food, and hope for the future. No passport will ever make a difference to that.