Hannah and Hanna

John Retallack
CultureClash and Greenwich Theatre
Assembly George Square Studios

Hannah and Hanna

Hardly a day goes by without the media carrying negative stories about migrants trying to get into Britain. The Prime Minister added his weight to the fuss by referring to them as "a swarm of people".

Only very occasionally do migrants appear in the media as human beings like us, only with desperate circumstances forcing them to migrate. That is why John Retallack’s very moving, often funny play Hannah and Hanna is so very important.

Set in Margate around the end of the twentieth century, the show deals with racial tensions between some local people and new arrivals from Kosova. The story centres on two sixteen-year-old girls, Hannah from Margate and a Kosovan girl who, because people find it hard to pronounce her name, asks that people call her by her middle name Hanna.

As we sat in our theatre seats at the start of today’s performance, the two girls in character walked from the back of the audiance telling individual audience members something about themselves. Kosovan Hanna showed me a picture of a lorry pointing to some space in it as the place she hid to get into Britain.

Initially, Margate Hannah is hostile to Kosovan Hanna. This is in part fuelled by her National Front boyfriend. However enjoying the same music and getting to know each other the hostility turns to friendship, and their families mix. Kosovan Hanna grows in confidence. However, Margate Hannah is assaulted by her boyfriend for breaking ranks and for a time feels estranged from her former friends.

Serin Ibrahim as Kosovan Hanna and Cassandra Hercules as Margate Hannah are two talented actors who show clearly the way the two girls change and develop. They also play all the other parts.

This is a play that should be shown in every workplace and school. We should also perhaps think of paying CultureClash Theatre to "swarm" into Number 10 Downing Street with it.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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