The Special Relationship at Soho Theatre Online
In The Special Relationship, comedy distracts from the greater theme of the pain and destruction caused by the partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom in their stance toward immigration. Playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak presents a concise and clear explanation of the policies and events that have sustained the ongoing violent treatment of immigrants, narrated by a diverse cast of characters. However, their difficult stories vaguely mingle with comic elements, which detracts from the impact of their message.
Each of Abdulrazzak’s characters have captivating personal stories that reveal the difficult reality of their lives. Combined with Esther Baker’s directing, these stories appear front and centre in a constant, heartfelt reminder of the families who are torn apart due to hostile policing and deportation. The characters’ experiences reflect the situations that so many individuals and families face while being detained, during which black women receive a strikingly high rate of abuse compared with their white counterparts and people facing illness and substance dependency are denied healthcare.
However, the play feels detached from the issue it seeks to illuminate. The actors give the performance their all, but the moments that seek laughter diminish an otherwise serious subject matter. Musical interludes and comic lines of dialogue break ties with the issue the play aims to engage its audience with.
Calling a relationship “special” is a purposefully vague characterisation in an abstract, empty way. This title prompts viewers to ask: “What’s special about the relationship between the US and the UK?” The Special Relationship answers that it’s a dark tango between Donald Trump, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson; a loving affair that causes destruction. Overall, the play’s critical perspective on the issue of immigration and the dehumanising environment created by both the US and the UK against immigrant detainees feels loosely aimed at an unfulfilled promise of satire.
The Special Relationship is available to stream at Soho Theatre on Demand from 26th May until 26th August 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.