There's No Place Like
Live at Zédel Crazy Coqs
Since visiting Zédel for a feature earlier this year, I have been curious to see a play on the venue's small (approximately 6m x 3m) stage, originally designed for cabaret performances.
I will have to go back to Zédel for this experience though because There's No Place Like, which is set in a pub, is played around the Crazy Coq's bar and the stage is used only by Marcus Ridely-Frewin who provides well-played incidental guitar music.
The music for this two-hander is written by Sam Elwin who also plays Jordan, a young man who finds himself at an uncertain time of his life, having lost his bar tending job and his mother recently having passed away.
Whilst Jordan's quandary is deciding whether to remain where he now has nothing to keep him or return home, Hannah has no such choice.
Jordan and Hannah meet when he goes into the pub where she works. But the pub is more than a place of employment for Hannah.
In her homeland, Hannah had been a singing teacher, but now she finds herself stuck in a London bar job "between visas"—stuck because if she leaves she may not be allowed back.
Hannah says, "I moved to London to get my voice back," but in order to stay here she must keep her head down and her voice remains stifled, albeit for different reasons.
She finds that she does not belong in London anymore than she did at home because in Israel she was at odds with those who did belong there.
In this sense, Hannah is not your usual refugee as she is in self-imposed exile: she is an Israeli from Israel and her motivation for leaving is getting out of "the most hated country in the world".
It could be debated whether the US has now actually 'Trumped' Israel for that rebuke, but it comes across as a rather un-compelling reason to catch yourself in such a circular net.
When Jordan returns to the same pub ten years on, he is married with children. He finds that Hannah is still there, more entrenched than ever, living above the pub and pretending to be Polish. (Rather ironic given the bad press meted out to Poles in the UK press.)
Jordan and Hannah's relative situations in the first and second act allow the play to look at various aspects of what is home, from where or what does identity derive and immigration.
It is a playful piece which covers a lot of ground without forcing any obvious conclusions on you. The characterisations from Elwin and Yosiphon are appealing and the blocking around the bar is natural and injects movement into an otherwise static narrative.
In many ways There's No Place Like raises the same issues as London Stories: Made by Migrants but it doesn't have the same pressing gravity.
As a writer, Yosiphon has genuine talent and it would be interesting to see her write a piece with greater depth tackling fewer topics.
She has made a great job of writing her first English language play which is bitter sweet, earnest and entertaining. It would work as a radio play and I hope she gets a chance to cross media.
The run of There's No Place Like has finished at Live at Zédel; London Stories: Made by Migrants continues until 26 November at Battersea Arts Centre.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti