Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea
Emanuele Aldrovandi, translated by Marco Young
Riva Theatre and The Playwright’s Laboratory in association with Park Theatre
Open almost any newspaper any day and you are likely to read negative accounts of migrants. According to research from the International Policy Institute, they are often depicted as “dangerous criminals” with Britain being “under attack from migrants, particularly asylum seekers and refugees".
The Institute of Race Relations claims the dominant stereotype is of a "threatening young male". Women barely get a look in, except perhaps in lurid stories about sex trafficking.
As for the people smugglers, they are rarely seen as anything more than brutal cruel monsters.
Sorry We Didn’t Die at Sea gives a surreal twist to this pattern. The smuggler is a one-dimensional, brutal controller listed in the programme as The Burly One (Felix Garcia Guyer). When not intimidating his passengers, he sits in the audience menacingly watching what takes place on stage, ready between scenes to give us a microphone-amplified account of obscure topics such as containerisation and his favourite recipe.
However, the three migrants he is transporting are people we wouldn’t expect to be smuggled out of Europe. The Stocky One (Marco Young) is a banker who is on the run for fraud. The Tall One (Will Bishop) might be an undercover writer. He arrives with a suitcase containing carefully folded, expensive clothes. The woman referred to as The Beautiful One (Yasmine Haller) has a background in medicine, which you would have thought gave her an easy entry to other countries.
No sooner has their background been sketched, than they are haggling about money and who should kill whom. Questions of murder later escalate when they are shipwrecked without any food or water.
Although there’s a lot in this show that ought to grab our interest, from the political topicality of migrants to debates about a planet that is running out of resources to feed its people, the play seems to deliver everything with a cartoonish lack of tension or purpose. It doesn’t even get a laugh (the night I attended) for its absurd exaggeration of characters and situations.
Given the play gestures in the direction of serious issues and dramatically might have developed into a thriller or a satiric comedy, it seems a pity that it never rises above knockabout friction between undeveloped characters it’s difficult to care about.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna