Deeply moving and truly beautiful, Walls is a heartfelt piece of physical theatre, narrating through movement and performance the stories of refugees from East Berlin during the Cold War as well as the current refugee crisis in Calais.
The movement is beautiful right down to the little details with the actors miming a fire and clicking their fingers as it crackles. One of the best moments of the play is when the leads in both the GDR and Calais attempt to escape – the lifts were masterful and, as an ensemble, the players move together effortlessly. Every physical sequence clearly depicts the desired feeling or event.In particular, the depiction of how people protest the mistreatment of refugees in Calais hits the audience emotionally through a simple but effective use of flowers and placement.
Ali Adenwala, as a young Afghan boy stuck in Calais, stands out with his vulnerable and at times utterly adorable performance. His narration describing his procurement of Adidas trainers is endearing while also taking a dark turn, undercutting the humour with the seriousness of any refugee’s situation.
The scenes showing the Stasi interrogating a German undercover activist (Phoebe Morris) are well written with an intelligent use of cross cutting as the stage is split with Morris being interviewed on one side while someone else is interviewed on the other but responding to the questions differently . However, Morris’ performance is a little contrived and the intense emotion performed is not always believable, which removes some of the drama from the scene. On the other hand, this is a small hiccup in a performance that relates real experiences with sensitivity, while also being unafraid to emphasise the gravity of the situation.
The movement is not the only beautiful aspect of this production either. The set is stark but fits perfectly with the performance as a plastic sheet is used multiple times, including as a wall and the smoke of a fire. Live music is performed in the background on an oud and a violin, combining the sounds of the Middle East and Europe.
This is a play that sends home an important message with a light touch that has no issue affecting all who watch it. The movement and music is bewitching in combination with actors who have the capacity to be both passionate and vulnerable. A topical subject performed with stunning execution.
ZOO (Venue 124)
Until 12th August
Photo credit: The Flame Collective