The relationship between the USA and the UK is special all right. In Hassan Abdulrazzak‘s incisive play, six deportees detail how the US immigration system grabs people, locks them up and spits them out over the Atlantic as Donald Trump and Theresa May engage in an awkward tango.
Abdulrazzak’s play consists of a series on monologues performed by a dynamic and sparky ensemble. A woman smuggles drugs over the border, another is pulled over for drinking and driving.
The ensemble cast is sparky and dynamic. Nicholas Beveney makes for a charming emcee as immigration officer Curtis – inclement weather, he says, is the best time to arrest someone. His presence can feel like an exercise in contrariness. He’s a caricature of an authority figure and he stand out among the sea of near-verbatim voices.
Esther Baker’s production amps up the playfulness. Lip syncs and dances abound. It’s more powerful when depicting the harsh realities. Duncan Wisbey slouches as the insouciant Newcastle man jailed for shooting his girlfriend. Once deported, he looks forward to dating again; the only deportee who’s carefree and adjusted is the murderer.
The starkness of detention (all too similar to imprisonment) is emphasised by Tony Simpson’s lighting, as are the enjoyably cartoonish interludes, which lean heavily on our willingness to deride world leaders rather than denounce them.
The Special Relationship addresses its subject with moving compassion. But while it highlights how easily buffoonery distracts us from injustice, it gives less weight to the sinister forces of authority at play.