Review: ONE WHO WANTS TO CROSS, Finborough Theatre

Distressing French play about the desperation of migrants crossing water under the control of traffickers

By: Feb. 03, 2023
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Review: ONE WHO WANTS TO CROSS, Finborough Theatre

Review: ONE WHO WANTS TO CROSS, Finborough Theatre In recent years, films like the award-winning animated documentary Flee have humanised the experience of migrants, reduced in so much of the media to "Illegals", a term not all that far from "Untermensch" really. Marc-Emmanuel Soriano's play (more performance piece), translated by Amanda Gann, adds to that important task in an intense hour of something between a recital of a prose poem and a two-handed drama.

We see a young man (Ola Teniola), frightened, anxious, alone. Soon he is joined by an older man (Wisdom Iheamo), who tells us that there are many people on the dockside like him, in various degrees of desperation, ready to spend their life savings and risk that life too, on the perilous crossing of an unnamed body of water. The older man's narrative circles back and forth, mirroring the tide and the state of mind of those ones who want to cross, balancing a known huge risk with an unknown dubious reward.

On a traverse, the actors are continually turning and twisting, looking this way and that, partly due to the staging, but also reflecting the would-be migrant's uncertain statelessness - are they looking back to their homeland or forward to their new, dangerous lives somewhere, anywhere, else?

That approach from director, Alice Hamilton, does avoid the play becoming too static and too much of a recital of a literary work, but there isn't much of the substance of drama on show. It's tricky to catch the personal narratives of unnamed characters, critical tragic events are reported in and the two men do not often interact directly. The effect is less of a compelling story moving forward in a theatrical sense and more of an aural mosaic building into a distressing picture of exploitation and despair.

The simile I use for evenings like this is the kale smoothie - like that drink, it's not too pleasant while you're consuming it, but you're glad you've had it once it's finished because it's done you a lot of good.

One Who Wants To Cross at the Finborough Theatre until 25 February

Photo Credit: Ali Wright




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