Warehouse of Dreams
Random Thoughts Ltd
Lion & Unicorn Theatre
Chuck Anderson’s play may be fiction but it draws its material from real life captured in news reports and in UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) documentation to present the dilemma of those who are involved in trying to help the thousands of displaced people in refugee camps.
A UNHCR Regional Director is visiting the refugee camp in the Middle East being set up by Senior Field Office Moriarty. It is six kilometres from the border across which UNHRA estimates 10-12,000 refugees in the first year. He says ten times that number.
Moriarty is a pragmatist—others may say he his heartless—but he handles the people he deals with on their terms. He knows there is corruption and self interest at work but if he can’t do things by the book he bends the rules to get the best results—even if it means being party to scams of the former rebel leader who calls himself The Colonel.
Newly arrived UNHRC Communications Officer Stanton represents the more naïve humanitarian whose compassion could compromise him and clever fourteen-year-old refugee girl Sabeen is there to represent its motivation.
Though the script is at times too noticeably packed with facts and figures and the characters obviously represent certain positions, the cast present strong characterisations which make this a conflict not just of ideas but between people.
Emma Vansittart makes Regional Director Griselda a seasoned observer and Chris Clynes’s Stanton is appropriately full of idealistic innocence in contrast to the blustery charisma of Luca Pusceddu’s demanding and wily Colonel.
Balqis Duvall has a charming directness as Sabeen, who fled from school when those against girls being educated shot her teacher, but with a manipulative streak that seems half-way between a child’s manipulation and young woman’s wiles. Chandrika Chevil as a British journo has little on which to build a character and seems there mainly to elicit information.
More complex is Moriarty. Jamie Thompson’s intelligent performance makes him perhaps a little too likeable, however, hardened by experience, he still shows great humanity in his relationships as well as in his inner thinking. Playing younger than written gives an intriguing extra edge to a sexual fantasy about Griselda.
The action is interwoven with scenes which lowered lighting and a music cue are meant to signal as dream episodes that present his personal problems, the isolation and loneliness and the guilt and horror that haunts him from a key past moment when he had to decide between an individual life and group benefit.
That transition is not sufficiently clearly signalled as not being real life, which makes them confusing until it sinks in that they are nightmares. Although each ends with angry off-stage crowd noise there is nothing to indicate that each has the tragic ending that the script describes.
Despite this failing, Dan Phillips's direction concentrates the attention on the difficulties of the situation. Rosie Motion’s setting of corrugated iron and chicken wire on a sand-covered floor hints at the Middle East and a situation where the relief team has no better (and probably worse) accommodation than those for whom they are responsible.
It seems to all take place in this shack, which may not be what is intended, and it is not clear what is the time span, but that does not affect the impact of this intriguing work.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton