Children’s stories can be a powerful way to raise big issues. There is something in the way that a child looks at the world, the innocence of what they see and the disbelief at the action of adults, that hits home the brutality of the lives that adults lead. Adrift, from Action Transport Theatre and performed at Z-Arts, places two children (played by adults) on a tiny boat as they escape from their war torn country, possibly Syria. So it was with The Other also at Z-Arts but aimed at adults, where the child ‘holds on to her fairytale long after we have seen that she is living in a nightmare’.

The play starts with a shadow puppet projection of the boat’s voyage onto the sail. As the lights come up we see a small green boat propped atop a blue sea. It’s called the Green Pea and at first it looks like the two children are having an adventure, playing at pirates and recreating sea monsters and mermaids from their mother’s storybook. It’s engaging and funny; one pretends to walk the plank. It’s then well set up for the reverse that comes very suddenly, the entire tone of the play turning instantly as we see that this is a refugee boat and that their sick mother is also hidden in the boat.

From here on, the refugee story is effectively layered on top of the two childhoods, so we see a nice ebbing and flowing between the innocence of childhood and the understanding that their situation might be dangerous. Behind the children’s show is a very serious message about the risks and costs of trying to escape over the Mediterranean Sea. This is very much a story that will speak differently to children and adults, yet each should come away with a message pitched at their own level. That makes it a cleverly put together play with important messages.


Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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