Sumerhall – Roundabout
In a small corner of a remote island, Elif (Sara Hazemi) is in charge of shearing the sheep and spinning the wool that forms into clouds and goes up in the sky. Without her hard work, there wouldn’t be any rain in the whole kingdom.
The tone set is that of a fable of times gone by. The three actors cover a multitude of roles, whilst also taking turns in recounting the story. There are old trunks around the floor of the Roundabout, whilst the costumes are reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie. Their bucolic world is graceful and pastel-lit.
Elif receives regular visits from the landowner’s son (Samuel Tracy), they fall in love and a little girl is born (Princess Khumalo). But Elif is left as a single mother, mainly because of a misunderstanding – I wonder if it’s due to the couple’s different cultural background.
Because Elif arrived from a land far away and has been hired without following protocol (read: illegally), she doesn’t have the same rights of a subject to the king, and so nor does her daughter. Fortunately, there’s a procedure to become registered, which she approaches with naive optimism. Faced by the ostracism of bureaucracy, her optimism soon turns into frustration and eventually desperation. When she mentions an expensive and difficult test to pass, I fully recognise the allegory of the British immigration system.
Moving to the city for greater opportunities, Elif’s workload just to keep afloat becomes unbearable, affecting her relationship with her daughter, as well as her ability to meet a significant other. Big hopes to thrive and expectations of stability are met by the locals’ standard response: “if you’re not happy, you’re welcome to go home any time”.
Director Yasmin Hafesji introduces a beautiful touch when the actors wring out some rugs into buckets of water, to create an evocative sound that highlights the urgency of the scene narrated at the same time. Whilst towards the end, there are painstaking – yet so familiar – mentions of occupied land and deportation. This rose-tinted fable has turned into a spinechiller.
As an immigrant myself – albeit one fortunate enough to have settled in this country with European privilege – this is a sore subject, and one those who haven’t experienced it first-hand need reminding of at any given opportunity.
Written by: Sami Ibrahim
Directed by: Yasmin Hafesji
Produced by: Paines Plough, Rose Theatre Kingston, in association with Gate Theatre
A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain plays at EdFringe 2022 until 27 August. Further information and bookings here.