Issues-based dramas are sometimes guilty of neglecting the drama in favour of the issues. Ben Richards’ atmospheric and evocative play about four Croatian immigrants flung together in the back of a lorry illicitly bound for Britain is inspired by the thorny question of asylum-seekers. But thankfully, he artfully sidesteps the obvious pitfalls by concerning himself with the human drama thrown up by such a ripe situation, regardless of the big issue surrounding it.
And while Polly Webb-Wilson’s simple but effective cardboard box-strewn setting and the lighting and sound do a lot of their work for them, the play’s four-strong cast, tightly marshalled by director Michael Longhurst, create totally the claustrophobia and sense of fear and suspicion which unfurls so palpably and at such close quarters.
Maria Corcobado, particularly, stands out as the troubled and spiritual Mira, whose reason for leaving her hometown with her volatile brother Branko (Ian Rose) is a closely guarded secret. In fact, it is a shame that her revelation is eked out so slowly, as dramatically it comes a little late in the day to really bear fruit. But then the restraint which Richards uses in fleshing out the characters and their backstories, with only Ted Pleasance’s health-troubled old-timer being a comparatively open book, adds hugely to this play’s short and sharp impact, even as events reach their predictably tragic conclusion.