BWW Review: EUROPE, Donmar Warehouse
Michael Longhurst's inaugural production as Artistic Director at the Donmar Warehouse is David Greig's Europe, 25 years after it was first staged at the Traverse in Edinburgh. Written during the break-up of Yugoslavia, Longhurst's production is still just as relevant, with differing views on Europe dominating the news every single day.
The play is set in a train station in an unnamed European border town - a once busy place, it's now slowly dying. Trains no longer stop there and factories are closing down, leaving scores unemployed. The train station is nearly completely abandoned except for stationmaster Fret (Ron Cook) and his assistant Adele (Faye Marsay) who can only watch as their station is literally wiped from train timetables, almost as if it never existed.
Sava (Kevork Malikyan) and his daughter Katia (Natalia Tena) are refugees who set up camp in the station while they wait to move on to the next place. They're fleeing an unnamed war-torn country and don't intend to stay in this town for long. But while there, Sava and Fret develop a wonderful friendship and Adele becomes fascinated by Katia and the adventurous life she's led.
There is a darkness that permeates throughout the production - there are constant mentions of wolves boldly moving out of the forest and heading closer to the town each night. Adding to this, Adele's husband Berlin (Billy Howle) is one of the men who have lost their job at the local steel factory - with his wife growing distant, he spends more time with his friends Billy (Stephen Wight) and Horse (Theo Barklem-Biggs). Feeling disenchanted and angry the group target foreigners, immigrants who they believe are taking their jobs. Eventually their anger turns into physical violence with devastating consequences.
There are extremely strong performances from the cast. Cook is superb as the bossy, self-important stationmaster, he is initially angry at Sava and Katia for making his station their resting place. However after spending some time with Sava, they become firm friends - both railway men, they are passionate about stopping the train station from being wiped from people's memory. Both Marsay and Tena are brilliant as naïve Adele and the knowing Katia respectively, and their developing relationship shows that regardless of our backgrounds, we're all human and have a need to form connections.
Chloe Lamford's versatile set is perfect for this production, with fluorescent lights overhead shaking as trains thunder past. Even though Greig's play is a quarter of a century old, it's still as relevant as ever. Thanks to sharp writing and brilliant casting, Europe is one show not to be missed this summer.
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner