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Going Through review at Bush Theatre, London – ‘intricately woven and affectingly performed’

Charmaine Wombwell and Nadia Nadarajah at Bush Theatre, London. Photo: Ali Wright

French playwright Estelle Savasta’s Going Through is simple in its poetry. Nour (Charmaine Wombwell) is raised by Youmna (Nadia Nadarajah) in a tiny house in an unspecified country where being born a girl carries a heavy cost.

They have limited possessions, but want for little. One day, Nour’s mother sends for her from abroad. Disguised as a boy, Nour sets out on an epic and deeply arduous journey. The only thing she keeps from her life with Youmna is a small golden box to be opened “the day she becomes a woman”.

But, despite all it shares in common with a fable, this is no fairytale. The play’s cleverness lies in how it contrasts these familiar, almost childlike, narrative elements with the all too real horrors of urgently trying to flee to another country.

Translated from French by Kirsten Hazel Smith, Omar Elerian’s production uses a mixture of BSL, creative captioning and spoken English. Both Wombwell and Nadarajah give very affecting performances. Nadarajah’s Youmna is grounded and wise, while the emotional struggle faced by Wombwell’s Nour is etched on her face.

Throughout, a motif of birds reoccurs. The small bird that Nour resembles after her hair is cut off, the missing mother bird that calls for the “fledgling” Nour and perhaps also the migratory patterns of birds that depart for another continent before eventually returning home to nest. But, above all, this is a tale of a mother’s love and devotion in a moment of absolute desperation.

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Verdict
Intricately woven and affectingly performed story about the pain of forced relocation and separation
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