Europe at Donmar Warehouse
It’s perhaps not surprising that Michael Longhurst would choose David Greig’s Europe as his first production at the Donmar Warehouse. In a Europe still enduring the effects of the refugee crisis and new updates on Brexit being shoved down our throats on a daily basis, picking a play that displays the struggles of refugees and the inevitable rise of racism is an easy choice to make when seeking to please an audience. Whether this is a good or bad thing doesn’t matter in the slightest, because the production clearly demonstrates that Longhurst is a fantastic director, and that Greig is a fantastic writer. Indeed, this is a timely and powerful spectacle.
In an unnamed border town, the onlookers are confronted with a desolate railway station where refugees Katia (Natalia Tena) and Sava (Kevork Malikyan) are taking a rest after travelling for a long time. Station master Fret (Ron Cook) at first tries to get them to leave, but gradually warms up to them under the influence of young Adele (Faye Marsay) and Sava’s good-natured and persuasive ways. When his beloved station closes and the local brutish thugs (Billy Howle, Theo Barklem-Biggs and Stephen Wight) start to become increasingly violent towards the refugees, the quartet is forced into a desperate position.
It’s obviously striking how relevant Greig’s play resonates today when one considers that it is almost a quarter of a century old at this point, which shows that some things sadly never change. The greatest strength of Europe as a play is most certainly the prose; here’s a myriad of gorgeous and powerful lines, mixed with a good portion of witty and humorous scenes that never feel out of place. Everything occurs at an excellent pace. The only things to criticise here are the one-dimensional and cartoonish thugs, as well as the somewhat predictable plotline. But who cares about the latter when it’s executed so well?
The production itself is an absolute spectacle. Longhurst really goes out of his way to make this a memorable event – and he succeeds in doing so. From the subtle but effective sound design (with Ian Dickinson) to the absolutely perfect lighting design (with Tom Visser), everything just works. Add to this an effective cast – with an especially powerful Natalia Tena – and you know you’re in for a ride. A tremendous success throughout.
Photos: Marc Brenner
Europe is at Donmar Warehouse from 20th June until 10th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.