Cargo at the Arcola Theatre
The Arcola’s Theatre 2 is pitch-black, the audience sit on wooden crates and trash bags, the set is made to look like the inside of a shipping container. It’s atmospheric, to say the least. Then someone whispers.
Author Tess Berry-Heart’s new play unfolds between four refugees: Joey and her brother Ishmael, guarded Sarah and Kayffe. They’re fleeing a loyalist occupation, Sarah has her papers in order, Joey and Iz don’t, while Kayffe is an old hand at being human cargo. Iz and Joey have a rosy view of things, planning to set up shop in France, get jobs, go travelling – it’s all rather heartbreaking. Sarah and Kayffe are a little more realistic with their expectations, they discuss the treatment of refugees, philosophise on exactly why it is people are so reluctant to offer help. The stories they swap tell of the horrors back home and snatches of the lives they remember before the war; it’s a timely reminder of the real life plight of refugees fleeing the Middle East for a chance at a better life. Accusations soon fly, Joey and Iz come from a loyalist-occupied area and the refrain “I just live there,” is pertinent.
In parts Cargo is darkly funny, but for the most part it’s harrowing. The performances are universally excellent: the powerful Jack Gouldbourne is enchanting as simple-minded Iz, Debbie Korley is heartbreaking as damaged Sarah, John Schwab and Milly Thomas are both excellent as Kayffe and Joey. David Mercatali’s direction is masterful; the stage is poorly lit and at times completely dark, it all makes for a completely absorbing, believable performance.
With the refugee crisis set to only get worse, and the disastrous Brexit results leaving Britain’s responsibility murky, Cargo could hardly be more relevant. It puts the audience in the minds of these refugees with ease. For some it will be an eye-opening experience and one would hope it might change some minds.
Cargo is on at the Arcola Theatre from 6th July until 6th August 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a trailer for Cargo here: