Church Hill theatre, Edinburgh
Two boys endure stormy seas and slave labour as they journey from Kabul to London this highly imaginative production
How do you begin to recreate the refugee experience? The answer, in this adventurous piece staged as part of the international festival by the Glasgow-based Vox Motus, is to eschew realism. The company take a novel, Hinterland by Caroline Brothers, about two Afghan boys journeying across Europe, and retell the story through miniaturised models in a revolving diorama. Audience members sit in individual booths listening to pre-recorded actors’ voices via headphones, and watch the tale unfold through scenes that pass before us on a carousel.
Jamie Harrison, who created the magic effects and illusions for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has designed the show and co-directed it with Candice Edmunds, and they have done a remarkable job. The faces of the two boys, especially that of wide-eyed eight-year-old Kabir in his woolly cap, are highly distinctive. Even if the images are small, you also get a sense of an epic, two-year odyssey that takes them on a journey all the way from Kabul to London. You see the boys crossing hazardous seas in rickety, refugee-filled boats, being treated as slaves in sunlit orange-groves, marvelling at the bustle and excitement of Athens. Some of the images, such as the portrait of passport-authorities and police with pelican beaks, are strange: others, such as one showing what it is like to be stashed away in a refrigerated meat-truck, are horrifying.