Dritan Kastrati was 11 years old when his parents sent him on a treacherous journey from his home in northern Kosovo across Europe to London.
As in last year’s Adam, another true-life tale of migration, Kastrati performs his own story in a play co-written with Nicola McCartney.
He describes the volatile situation in his home country and the perilous passage, by boat, train and in the back of darkened vans, to be reunited with his brother in the UK, only to be separated by social services.
A self-described “little shit” he often has to rely on his cockiness and charm to survive.
What sets Neil Bettles’ production apart from other plays about the refugee experience is the time it spends detailing his time as a young asylum seeker in the foster care system.
He’s fed, clothed and sent to school, but the absence of genuine care is stark. No one will listen to his needs. No one will hug him. “Hugs aren’t safe.”
When he’s finally old enough to be reunited with his parents again, he doesn’t feel at home anywhere.
Though some of the dramatic techniques feel a little hackneyed – a chorus format in which all the actors take turns to be Dritan – and the child’s-eye account of the war in the Balkans can feel simplistic, the piece really comes into its own as an account of the UK care system as seen from the inside.