A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain

Sami Ibrahim
Gate Theatre, Paines Plough and Rose Theatre
Gate Theatre

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Princess Khumalo as Lily and Sara Hazemi as Elif Credit: Craig Fuller
Samuel Tracy as the Landowners's Son Credit: Craig Fuller

A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain, Sami Ibrahim’s latest play, is a poetic fable that begins with a young woman in a field shearing a sheep in a surreal land where the heavy fleece of an unsheared sheep doesn’t weigh it down to earth but enables it to float in the air and shit down on cities, and where workers with vacuums suck up the torrential rain to control flooding.

There is a cast of just three, their main roles being shepherdess Elif (Sara Hazemi), her employer, who owns both the land and the sheep Elif is herding, Lily, Eif’s daughter (both played by Princess Khumalo), and the landowner’s son (Samuel Tracy), who is Lily’s father. All three share the narration which exceeds the dialogue in telling this story.

Elif is an illegal immigrant, sent to this land as a child to escape the tyrannical regime that had killed her father. She could get by in the countryside if she kept her head down, but when she has a daughter, she wants to get the girl citizen status. They have until she is eighteen to secure it, but the bureaucratic machine moves slowly. It can take years and year to reach even the King’s registrars registers assistant’s underling.

This may sound familiar? But the handling is too soft for satire, it doesn’t have the sharpness or the savagery of this dramatist’s two Palestinians go dogging which we saw this spring at the Royal Court. This stylised production is a long way from nitty gritty with helium balloon sheep and, when Elif and the landowner’s son get the hots for each other, the seed that will become Lily, is a little Russian babushka doll planted to grow in the earth in one of the tin trunks from which props are sourced.

Director Yasmin Hafesji sets a cracking pace and narration is smoothly passed between the cast and enactments presented with vigour but, though the very short lines on the script page suggest space for thought, the rush with which it is sometimes delivered doesn’t help clarity, especially in an in-the-round situation when a speaker may have their back to you.

This is the first production that the Gate presents in its shared new home at 26 Crowndale Road, London NW1 in the theatre formerly known as Theatre Technis which remains the home of the Theatro Technis company.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton