Writer Anders Lustgarten’s biography in the front of the Lampedusa programme and text describes him as a ‘political activist who’s been arrested in four continents’. It should come as no surprise then that Lampedusa – named after the Italian island that marks the southern most point of Europe, and the primary entry point for migrants – is a play that tackles immigration and welfare. Slipping between the words of Stefano, an Italian lifeguard who fishes the bodies of hundreds of drowned migrants from the sea, and those of Denise, a payday lender collector in Leeds. Ferdy Roberts and Louise Mai Newberry give captivating performances in the lead roles in the intimate stripped setting of Soho Upstairs.
Lustgarten’s play is delivered in the timeless tradition of storytelling, the character’s monologues echoing the no doubt countless tales that have travelled round the world and through history to tie us each to our past and our homelands. There’s a touch of humour, heartbreak, and horror here as Stefano and Denise reel you into their lives. The world shrinking to the mesmeric single swaying bulb on the stage, as the language and the performance transport you to the climax of the story. At first I failed to see the link between the two lead characters, and their journey of finding hope in unexpected places, but now I believe the connection is the invisible thread that ties all of humanity together. An absorbingplay that questions how an apparently civilised continent got to this point. How we got to this point.
Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten is on at the Soho Theatre until 26th April 2015.
n.b. The seating for this performance is benches without backs, but if you need support you can find a small number of lighting pillars that run vertical to the back row. Using my neck pillow I was able to lean against one of these pillars for the duration of the performance. There is a lift up to the studio.