Pizza Shop Heroes
Tara Arts Theatre
There’s a bit of advice in Pizza Shop Heroes, for those of you who are planning to seek refuge in the UK. Ask the people who are threatening your life to write the threat in a letter you can take as evidence of the reason you had to flee. And make sure they say which terrorist group they belong to.
That’s how absurd the demands for proof of your situation can seem, while you wait many years to be given the right to remain. As if you would have risked death and injury making the dangerous journey to England just for the rain and the peculiar hostility to refugees.
Pizza Shop Heroes has been created by four former child refugees from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Albania, who draw on their own histories to give us a sketch show that is loosely set around the counter of an “Indian-Italian pizza shop”, though pizza plays very little part in the performance.
We hear about the distances travelled, the way gangs have sometimes exploited their families en route and their impressions of England.
Occasionally, we hear a mother or sister’s point of view and with the talk of families there is also the fine, gentle singing of Yermone Barya as he plays the Krar, an instrument from Eritrea.
Using suitably absurd versions of colonial-style hats they hold in front of them, they give a potted history of the abuse of Eritrea by Italy and then by the UK which conquered it in 1941, pillaging its industry and railways before eventually handing the country over to Ethiopia, an action that generated decades of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
But the attitude of the performers to England is positive and they even affectionately, to some laughter, produce a series of tips under the title of “Things you need to know about living in the UK”.
The nearly seventy-minute show can feel slightly fragmentary but is all the same an engaging event that sparked numerous discussions afterwards with the audience that informally joined them on stage.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna