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The Story review at the Other Room, Cardiff – ‘well-written thriller about the refugee crisis’

Hannah McPake and Siwan Morris in The Story at the Other Room, Cardiff. Photo: Kirsten McTernan
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Accused of being radicalised after returning home, a volunteer at a refugee camp  is cajoled and coerced into making a confession by a mysterious but familiar face from her past.

Written in response to her own experiences as a volunteer, Tess Berry-Hart’s thrilling two-hander cuts uncomfortably close to the bone. Berry-Hart’s depiction of psychological and emotional violence feels very real, something made all the more unsettling by director David Mercatali’s matter-of-fact presentation of it.

Aptly for a play about people being treated like cogs in a machine, mechanical sounds feature heavily in Tic Ashfield’s score. This, coupled with Katy Morison’s flickering fluorescent lighting, evokes the sense of place that feels both remote and unwelcoming.

As V and X, Hannah McPake and Siwan Morris make the most of their roles. Morris is believable as a woman being pushed towards madness; she gives a very physical performance, full of nervous energy. McPake, returning to the Other Room following Seanmhair in 2017, gives a very versatile performance, inhabiting a series of different characters, each distinct in physicality and mode of expression.

The performances aren’t always as well-served by Mercatali’s traverse staging as they might, though, which means the is view obstructed from certain parts of the auditorium.

Looming large in Berry-Hart’s play is the figure of the Storyteller, played via projection by Luciana Trapman. Her voice is captivating, but the inclusion of this Orwellian presence is the one part of the play that feels jarring. It dilutes the power of an otherwise engaging piece about the refugee crisis.

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Strong performances elevate a well-written thriller about the refugee crisis