Silver Birch House is a moving portrait of the displacement of a rural Turkish farming family against the backdrop of the country’s political and social upheaval in the latter part of last century. From the late ’60s, a series of military coups and guerilla wars divided the country and its people.
Peter Polycarpou plays Hyder, desperately trying to hold on to tradition and already scarred by earlier wars. With his only son at university, he is already losing the battle to keep his household together. Rebecca Calder and Marianna Neofitou portray his wilful youngest daughters, each coming of age and awakening to a changing world. To them, the communist rebels possess an air of romanticism; tending sheep is a bore and their father a bully.
Neil Irish’s design is of a quality you might expect at higher-profile theatres. Entering the stage arena through a birch forest, the locus of rural life is made immediate, while the city recedes behind a wooded horizon. Those trees come to symbolise casualties of war in the shifting landscape of Turkey and the play a haunting ode to the human face of idealism.
Eventually the family is forced to the city as whole communities are dispersed. There is a strong Turkish identity to Dalston; hopefully the community gives the support this high-achieving fringe venue and the quality work shown here deserves. The talented team assembled for this production certainly does not let it down.