A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain
Paines Plough, Rose Theatre Kingston, in association with Gate Theatre
ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall
When we have a government determined to send refugees to probable death by fantastic means such as pushing their fragile boats back in the channel or sending them to Rwanda, then it is surely difficult to dream up a satire or a fable that can match government policy.
After watching Uma Nada-Rajah’s play Exodus down at the Traverse Theatre in which a Home Secretary of Asian heritage announces the creation of a radiation field around Britain to deter refugees, I heard a theatre reviewer sigh that he hoped it didn’t give Priti Patel ideas.
Sami Ibrahim’s A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain gives us three actors telling a magical fable about the difficulties of the refugee Elif (Sara Hazemi) who, in fleeing a brutal country where a member of her family has been forcibly disappeared by its government, finds herself working for a landowner in a different country spinning wool into clouds that blow over the city.
Attracted to the son (Samuel Tracy) of the landowner, she gives birth to their daughter Lily (Princess Khumalo). To avoid the landowner getting control of the child, she moves to the city, where she decides it is time to get registered for the sake of Lily. Although registering herself in the country before Lily is eighteen means her daughter will automatically be a citizen, that is no easy task, especially given the kingdom is a bureaucratic nightmare that charges an annual fee to continue the processing of the application. As a consequence, she finds herself working incredibly long hours mopping up water for the rich, a job that leaves her with little time to spend with her child.
It’s a gentle fable that encourages our empathy for Elif and Lily. The storytelling is fast and lively, but by mostly telling us what happens rather than showing us what takes place, it adds a further distancing effect to the fantastic elements of the story. It's a set of choices that can also reduce the audience's chances of seeing it as a commentary on our own society.
The show concludes with three possible endings, none of which is a solution to the precarious existence of being a refugee. But then theatre can only point to the necessity for change. It’s up to us whether a better outcome is possible.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna