Ariella Eshed’s fine cast tackle the most up-to-date of issues: that of asylum seekers in the UK. Refreshingly this play does not have the ‘soap box’ political approach of government quotas and left/right wing word-play. Crocodile Seeking Refuge is the frying pan in fire metaphor of the grass is greener syndrome. That may well sound a little over ‘metaphored’ sic
but it is in these abstract dreams of the asylum seekers that their situations become intolerable. Once here, (UK shores) do they come face to face with the realities of an over-complicated bureaucratic system of filtering the needy and the wanting.
The story centres around Zakariya who has left his family in the Sudan, where on arrival at Dover he is thrown into prison for 5 months. Stunningly underplayed by Nick Oshikanlu, Zakariya’s tragic journey is explored in this gentle and often humorous production. Supported by a fine cast, Katherine Rogers is excellent as the champion Harriet who tries to cut through red tape and protect her wards. This production really does hit the heart strings and raises many questions about processing humans. There are no answers here, really, but maybe the profile of current campaigns can be raised by this type of production.
Unfortunately the final scene of this production is its own downfall. Each of the scenes build to create a sympathy and greater understanding of what happens to people when they leave their homes and families in search of a safe and better life. So why in a terribly middle-class, middle- England way do we get a final scene on the effect and affect towards the social worker and her husband. Surely the penultimate scene of ‘back onto the merry-go-round’ would have been much nearer to the truth rather than a clumsy attempt to round things off. This may seem harsh – it is! What was fast becoming a play and production of real worth and a piece of challenging and enlightening theatre, became a safe, all loose ends tied production. It lost its edge in the final moments…. such a shame.
A warm and tender two hours that enlightens and entertains – 5 final minutes that shatter and disappoint.
Gene David Kirk