Negative Signs of Progress: Here by Dan Rebellato

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 25 February 2013
In the opening third of Polly Thomas' production, I have to admit that I wasn't sure whether I was going to warm towards the text or not.  The premise looked exciting: Danny, a computer operative (Khalid Abdalla), is disturbed late at night by Paul, a mysterious member of the security services (Tony Gardner) who, although appearing friendly at first, has a specific agenda in mind.  As we learned what had had happened to Danny's wife Ellie, who had gone abroad as an aid worker, I wondered whether the play was going to draw on familiar orientalist stereotypes, such as identifying the Republic of Turkey as a place of intrigue and mystery.  The story said that Ellie had ended up in Ankara and had evidently gone missing - as a resident of that city, I can vouch for the fact that little of note actually happens here.  The actors also mispronounced the word "kofte" - a Turkish dietary staple that gives meatballs a spicy twist.
However as the action wore on, I came to understand just what a cleverly constructed piece of drama Here was.  The author Dan Rebellato has a gift for revealing information gradually: just when we thought we understood what Paul's motives were for coming to Danny's home, the action consciously frustrated our expectations.  Like Danny himself, we were continually surprised by what we learned about Danny, Ellie, and his family background.
The two actors were utterly convincing in their roles, taking full advantage of the opportunities contained in the script for taut conversational exchanges, almost as if they were verbally sparring with one another.  It would be invidious to reveal too much of the plot - suffice to say that Ellie's motives for travelling to the Republic of Turkey were not quite as altruistic as her husband assumed.
I will certainly listen to the other two plays in Rebellato's trilogy as soon as I can.