Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten

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Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten. Dir. Steven Atkinson. Perf. Louise Mai Newberry, Ferdy Roberts. Guardian Books/ Soho Theatre, 11 Jun. 2015. Download

This two-hander, more precisely described as a play for two voices, looks at the consequences of the mass emigration from Africa to Europe that has become a political hot potato for many European countries.

Stefano (Ferdy Roberts) is a fisherman following in his family's footsteps; the only difference being that whereas fish used to be the main catch, he now has to ferry emigrants across the Mediterranean, often in large numbers. The task is a hazardous one, not only for Stefano himself but for the emigrants, who are prepared to risk life and limb in the hope of finding a better life in Europe. The experience often proves harrowing for Stefano, especially when he has to negotiate a path through shoals of corpses.

Denise (Louise Mai Newberry) is trying to finish her university course while working as a collector of payday loans. She knows all the tricks people use to evade payment, but even she is shocked by the hardships experienced by recently-arrived immigrants to Britain who are not only ostracized by their host community but treated as pariahs by government offices, hospitals and civil servants alike. Outwardly an aggressive character who purports to have "seen it all," Denise undergoes something of a change of heart as she acts on behalf of one particular immigrant suffering from a crippling illness.

Lampedusa lifts the lid on the true consequences of the recent mass emigrations. It exposes the hollowness behind the politicians' rhetoric, proving beyond doubt their inability to understand ordinary peoples' lives. By focusing on immediate day-to-day experiences, director Steven Atkinson shows how even the most well-intentioned individuals can be frustrated in their efforts: the consequences caused by mass emigrations seem impossible to deal with. The only way to deal with them is for politicians, government agencies and individuals in all European countries to formulate a concerted and collaborative strategy. In light of the comments pronounced by hotheads such as UKIP and other far-right groups, the prospect of this happening seems sadly remote.