Warehouse of Dreams is the story of a refugee camp in a nameless part of the Middle East during an unspecified conflict. But this is not a story of war; this is not even a look at the effect on the innocent civilians. Warehouse asks the rather tough question, when does Western aid become Western interference?
The focus of Chuck Anderson’s script is a brave one, but through the central character of Moriarty, and the decisions he must make to keep the peace, it is subtly and, more importantly, sensitively handled. Issues range from food distribution to arranged marriage, highlighting that just because these people have left their lives behind and are now in Western care, doesn’t mean their culture and traditions must end.
Anderson manages to inject an air of impartiality into the proceedings, mainly through well-rounded characters. There’s the reporter looking for justice, the diplomat looking for results, the young Muslim girl with a taste of the Western world and the idealistic aid worker. With each given a unique voice, views and opinions never seem forced; instead arguments are delivered with the audience left to come to their own conclusions.
Holding this altogether is Moriarty, an aid worker charged with the welfare of a group of people who have lost everything. Though he oozes charm, Jamie Thompson plays the role with subtle depth. As he straddles a line between diplomacy and corruption, he successfully personifies the core message of the play; in war, there is never a clear winner, there is just compromise.
He plays off well with the rest of the cast but it was his scenes with Luca Pusceddu’s Colonel that really shone. Though nothing more than a gangster, his role as voice of the people makes him a necessary evil, both a thorn in Moriarty’s side, and a blessing. With neither of them on stable ground their arguments crackle beautifully.
Director Dan Phillips has always had a knack for dialogue heavy scripts, driving it forward with a pace that always feels natural, yet never lingers. Working with a very thin narrative Phillips brings a structure to the proceedings, meaning that by the final bow you feel both the characters and story have reached a satisfying conclusion.
There were times when I felt that the script could be tighter, even at 90 minutes without an interval. Though Moriarty’s backstory was interesting, and never once felt tacked on for the sake of depth, sequences when it was realised through nightmares felt slightly unnecessary. They did break the action up a bit, but maybe this wouldn’t be as needed with a shorter running time.
The subject matter of Warehouse of Dreams may put some people off, but the refugee camps and the lives of the people are merely described there to create understanding, not to shock. The impact of the play comes from its exploration of Western involvement in outside conflict, making this a slick production worth checking out.
Review by Max Sycamore
Friday 14th November 2014