Lampedusa: a chronicle of compassion in the face of adversity (4 stars)

Lampedusa, Citizens' Theatre

Andy Clark and Louise Mai Newberry in Lampedusa / credit: Alex Brady

Impassioned political theatre and a beacon of optimism

The lives of an impoverished fisherman on Lampedusa (an Italian island home to many stateless refugees) and a working-class university student in Leeds might not, on a superficial level, seem to have much in common. Yet the greatest strength of Lampedusa is that it renders this connection clear and imperative.

In the sandy, object-strewn space of the Citizens Theatre's Circle Studio, compelling monologues are delivered by Andy Clark (the fisherman) and Louise Mai Newberry (the student), each character seeking to understand their own place in a new political and economic reality in which the lives of ordinary people are almost an afterthought. Clark and Newberry inhabit the space with ease, and their performances are both skilful and vivid; invisible characters become alive as the action progresses, and the actors' understated yet emotional use of the detritus that litters the makeshift beach lends poignancy to the very human stories that Lampedusa seeks to explore.

The lives uncovered are ones dogged by death, illness and poverty. Tales are told of payday loans, vicious racism and the drowned, bloated corpses of children. Although the political commentary can sometimes veer towards the obvious, the unsentimental humanity that shines through – in messages of friendship, hope and kindness – ensures that Lampedusa remains a vital chronicle of compassion in the face of adversity.

Reviewed at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, run ended.

Lampedusa

Telling the stories of human kindness behind the headlines, Lampedusa was a sell-out during its premiere run at Soho Theatre in London in 2015.

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