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M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018: Displaced by Ground Cover Theatre (Review)

Ground Cover Theatre tackles the refugee crisis in an intimate, polished piece brimming with theatrical magic.

In Displaced, Ground Cover Theatre boldly tackles the topic of the refugee crisis in a play that tells of three women from different time periods who all escape to Canada. Mary (Jacqueline Block) flees from Ireland’s Great Famine in 1847, Sofia (Anna Mazurik) leaves war-torn Germany in 1947, and Dara (Emma Laishram) escapes Afghanistan’s restrictive Taliban rule in 2007. As each of them crosses the border, they’re faced with a whole slew of prejudices as new immigrants, ranging from racial intolerance, to bearing a country’s history of war crimes, to simply adapting to their newfound homes’ cultures while keeping their own identities.

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It’s evident that plenty of research has gone into the production of this play, and director/playwright Natasha Martina and co-playwright Sue Mythen treat the material in Displaced with a reverence and respect that allows each woman’s story to always feel sincerely portrayed, relatable to non-immigrants. While epic in scope, spanning 160 years of history, Displaced is also incredibly intimate in allowing us to become privy to each woman’s private lives, fears and little joys as each one written as a fully formed character. Each one struggles in their own way with the preconceptions of their country of birth, or even the ‘simple’ task of proving their status as refugees. In watching their lives change from one of isolation into finding genuine solace and connection with others, speaking out their dreams and leaving behind the weight of the past, there is an undeniable warmth that spreads throughout the theatre, the audience actively rooting for these women to succeed and be ok.

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In between each woman’s time specific scenes, Displaced at times collapses history and breaks naturalism to bring all three women together within the theatrical space, often a cue to expect some of the most beautiful movement work we’ve seen in a while. Each choreographed step, turn and pirouette feels like a burst of pure emotion, expressing the full extent of their thoughts where words would never be enough. And even when they do speak, the accents are handled with aplomb, wholly believable and played for realism. Although equipped only with a single rack of costumes and a few wheeled wooden frames and ‘boxes’, Carla Orosz’s minimalist set works to Displaced’s advantage, often requiring only our imaginations and the stellar acting to see the scene formed in our mind’s eye, while scored to an evocative original soundtrack by Jason Cullimore.

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Displaced is moving, powerful theatre that combats xenophobia with compassion  – by putting these strangely familiar characters in an empathetic light, allowing the audience to find the most elemental points of connection in watching them, not as immigrants but as fellow humans. There is theatrical magic at work here in this polished, professional production that is more apt than ever in a world of increasing anti-immigration policies and sentiment, and asks us only to show a little compassion towards every person we meet.

Performance attended 26/1/18

Photo Credit: S.E. Grummett

Displaced plays at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from 26th – 28th January. Tickets available from SISTIC

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