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Lampedusa

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It could be anywhere, the sparse expanse of beach littered with washed-up detritus that covers the stage throughout Jack Nurse's revival of Anders Lustgarten's quietly impassioned plea for humanity. As the title of Lustgarten's play makes clear, it is actually the Italian island that is the gateway to Europe for migrants attempting to flee Syria and other places. It is also where Andy Clark's grim-faced fisherman Stefano is employed to scoop up the drowned bodies of those who didn't make it.

Closer to home, in a northern English town on the other side of the world, Anglo-Chinese student Denise attempts to make ends meet as a debt collector for a payday loan company. Louise Mai Newberry's Denise is smart enough to understand how poverty and prejudice work, but is herself trapped by her mother's incapacity.

As Lustgarten's twin monologues weave across each other, the connections between the two become painfully clear. Thrown into crisis, it slowly dawns on each of them that they're caught in the crossfire of situations that haven't happened by accident, but which are ideologically calculated. Lustgarten's thesis is unashamedly partisan, but, in Stefano and Denise, he has pulsed his ideas with a human heart that sees Clark and Newberry perform with a quietude heightened even more by the Mediterranean idyll of Stuart Ramage's live acoustic guitar.

Presented by the Citizens in association with the young Wonder Fools company, Nurse's production is a zeitgeist-capturing evocation of hope. As Stefano and Denise find a hand of friendship in the most unlikely of places, it is clear the play isn't just about them, but the communities they are both part of. This is what binds them in an embrace of recognition and solidarity for what they have in common that speaks across oceans.

The Herald, November 13th 2017

ends

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