Mark Westbrook and the company
Acting Coach Scotland
Every so often, journalists report a tragic story of refugees fleeing some appalling threat and perhaps dying on route to imagined safety. There is talk of Britain being a more welcoming sanctuary and then things return to a cooler, less friendly place to seek refuge.
The play Leftovers explores responses to the refugee crises. It begins with the public speech of the character Emma (Laura Watson), an advocate who heavily criticises government failures towards refugees.
Not surprisingly, this generates an argument with the minister (Donna Swanson) whom she later meets socially. As far as the minister is concerned, there should actually be a bigger clampdown on refugees for security reasons.
Meanwhile, a journalist Helen (Anouk Aslam Wulfing) stirs up prejudice with sensational and insensitive stories. It leads to a furious row with Emma who persuades her to actually interview refugees at a detention centre rather than simply reproduce the negative stereotypes.
Many of the stories she hears are the verbatim accounts collected by members of the cast.
The refugees include engineers, teachers and someone who had been imprisoned simply for being a member of an opposition. Then there are the children uncertain they will ever be able to return home and feeling incredibly insecure in this country.
We also hear from those who have ‘settled’ in Britain. A young woman describes Glasgow as the first place she felt safe being kissed by her girlfriend in public.
A volunteer from France who works with refugees and appears as himself in the play describes movingly breaking with his former life in the French Navy out of disgust with the French bombing of Libya that killed thousands of civilians.
"I can’t help the Libyans who died but I can help the Syrian refugees who survived."
Emma’s fictional campaign for refugees does make some impact as newspaper stories for a period reflect the reality and college students hold concerts to publicise the issue.
Even government ministers change, but, when the next minister gets the opportunity, he privately and arrogantly reminds her that he has no more sympathy for refugees than the previous minister.
This is a thoughtful, sensitive show that gives a voice to refugees stigmatised even when taking desperate sanctuary in Britain.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna