This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews
Writer: Salvatore Cabras
Dramaturg: Maggie Rose
Musical Director: George Drennan
The Public Reviews Rating:
A play about the origins of Europe, the cross-pollination of its distinct cultures and peoples was always going to be difficult to sell to the theatre-going public. That said, often the most unlikely and demanding material proves to be the most rewarding and satisfying to watch. That the story here is told through a ‘modern twist’ on the ancient myth of the Phoenician princess Europa, a high born noble woman who is abducted by Zeus in the guise of a bull and transported across the Mediterranean, doesn’t help. Unfortunately, this is borne out by the tiny audience who have turned out to see this production of Europa: Our First Migrant by theatre company Replico.
The problem with the piece doesn’t lie solely with its subject matter but in its telling. The narrative lacks cohesion, the metaphors are heavy handed and the staging, coupled with a tiny, over-stretched cast, do nothing to help convey any meaningful message to the audience. We begin in an undisclosed Scottish location in what seems to be a community hall, where a few of the locals have gathered. The talk quickly turns to the imagery of the bull which proliferates in 21st century advertising and using a box of props which handily, seems to be just lying around, we journey from Cretan hillside, to sailing ship on the Med, to psychiatrist’s office, to a scene with the ‘immigration police’, oh, and to a scene with some puppets and Flamenco dancing, all within the space of an hour and all in the name of illustrating the origins of Western culture. The story too, is punctuated with a mishmash of songs, and whilst these may reflect the diverse cultures of Europe, do nothing to enhance the storytelling.
The narrative switches between a mixture of crudely written dialogue and lyrical poetry which, judging by the looks on the faces of the audience, left many scratching their heads and wondering just what on earth was going on for a large part of the performance. The actors themselves are an engaging bunch but their personalities alone are not enough to dig this piece out of the mire: the staging and delivery are too pantomime or school play for an adult audience and the overall tone of the piece is uneven. Whilst it is commendable that the company have to chosen to produce material that is out-with the norm, the audience sometimes needs a good old-fashioned, clear plot-line to hold on to.