A timely addition to the Leeds Playhouse programme in our current mid-Brexit state, ‘Europe’ is the story of locals and foreigners colliding in a small almost forgotten place.
First performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in 1994, David Greig’s play takes the epic theme of shifting borders, handles politics, social norms, changing identities, street violence, dreams, and somehow wedges in sexuality and a love story too. In a stark town famous for nothing more than making lightbulbs and soup, a temperamental narrow-minded station master finds two people hiding out at his apparently train-less station. As it emerges that both his station and his town are becoming as forgotten as the new arrivals wish their recent violent past was, his true nature is revealed, along with those of his neighbours.
Sava and Katia are economic refugees, waiting at the station so they can disappear to somewhere that has crowds and people. The stationmaster, Fret, isn’t impressed that they are spending night after night on his station platform, but they haven’t been in anyone’s way, as it transpires that all services to and from anywhere are cancelled. Forever. Fret’s station porter Adele spends her mornings on the roof of the station, watching trains filled with people and newspapers thundering past their home and onward to exciting places, while her redundant husband Berlin rants against immigrants in the only bar the town has, persistently drinking his days away with his also redundant friend Horse.
Personalities of the workers and the hopeful dream-chasing Adele become more contrasting, each through disillusionment and dislike of change, with friends coming and going along with respect and morals. Boundaries of all manner are compromised during the grey autumnal days and nights in the provincial town; at the station, the local bar, on the rooftops and in the woods. What starts as a quiet safe place to live ends up feeling like a no-go zone seeing residents and visitors leaving and not always of their own accord. With more drama than a Shakesperian romance, ‘Europe’ glistens with humour and gentle human connections, beauty and deterioration sitting side-by-side, finely tuned symbolism making a gripping and emotional two halves.
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