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Review of Hiding Heidi (A Tale of Love and Hate in Stoke on Trent)

Hiding Heidi cast
Hiding Heidi (A Tale of Love and Hate in Stoke on Trent)

On the 23rd June 2016, the UK went to the polls to decide whether the country should stay in or leave the European Union. The vote went 52% to vote leave. The political fallout of the referendum is still being felt as the negotiations start on the Brexit process and will no doubt continue to rumble on over the next few years. In his one-act play Hiding Heidi (A Tale of Love and Hate in Stoke on Trent), Ian Dixon Potter has tried to envisage what life will be like once Brexit has happened and the UK is once again outside of the European Union.

Ralph (Richard de Lisle) is trying to find a new carer for his mother Dorothy (Maxine Howard). Unfortunately, with the expulsion of all the foreigners, this is not an easy task. However, he thinks he has found the perfect candidate in Heidi (Siobhan Ward). She has loads of experience, is bright, intelligent and actually seems to get on with Dorothy. There is just a minor snag, Heidi is not English but in fact, comes from a European country and does not meet the English government’s strict residency regulations meaning not only should she not work in England but actually faces deportation if she is caught. Being as she is the only candidate, Ralph and Dorothy decide to take a chance and employ Heidi. Ralph even finds an ingenious way to hide her should one of the neighbours, such as Maureen (Kate Carthy) pop round for a chat with Dorothy. So all is settled and peace rules throughout the household. But, in a post-Brexit England, where everyone is expected to be vigilant, can Ralph, Dorothy and Heidi ever be guaranteed the chance to get on with their lives in peace and safety?

I have no problems with politics in plays but with Hiding Heidi, it felt to me that Ian Dixon Potter had taken all the potential negatives of Brexit and extrapolated them to the absolute extreme. Sometimes this writing method can work but I’m afraid that, in my opinion, this meant there was way too many political slogans and not enough depth to all the characters. This was particularly true of Ralph and Maureen who felt very two dimensional with their points of view. Ralph was a ‘Remainer’ and ‘Momentum’ boy through and through whilst Maureen was an exaggerated caricature of a ‘Little Englander’. This was a shame in many respects as I really liked Heidi herself – a young lady that just wanted to work and do her best. I also liked Dorothy who, with that wonderful logic some people have could say a sentence that on the one hand said how much she disliked foreigners but on the other, moved Heidi out of that group as she was a different type of foreigner.

The actors did a pretty good job and special praise needs to go to Kate Carthy in the dual roles of Maureen and Mrs Little, the latter in particular being extremely well portrayed. Peter Foster’s set was nicely designed to represent Dorothy’s home and, I loved the touch with the flying ducks on the wall. The only slight issue was that that the bookcase should have been fixed in place at one side as it didn’t always go back into position properly, which for someone with my minor OCD was a tad distracting.

Overall, Hiding Heidi (A Tale of Love and Hate in Stoke on Trent) was an interesting story of the potential effects of Brexit. I feel that the writing was slightly too one-sided and this meant at times, it felt like a party political broadcast. However, there were some interesting points and the gentle love story that runs through the performance was really nice to see. There were some nice touches of humour in the writing and some good acting but, unfortunately, the overall show didn’t work for me.

Presented at the Etcetera theatre as part of VoilaEurope, The Annual European Theatre Festival produced by the Cockpit Theatre for multilingual theatre lovers, Hiding Heidi is an interesting play that has a lot of potential but ultimately, didn’t do it for me.

2 gold stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Heidi loves living in Stoke on Trent, she loves her English friends, and most of all she loves her work as a nurse. She’s made her life in England, but a dark cloud is looming. Heidi loses her job and is threatened with immediate deportation. Will she be captured by the sinister Immigration Office with its vast network of informers? Will she
find somewhere to hide? Will she even find love amidst the hate and intolerance of post Brexit Britain?

Written and Directed by Ian Dixon Potter
Performed by Siobhan Ward, Richard de Lisle, Maxine Howard & Kate Carthy
Sound & Light by Janet Smith-Cantrill
Set design by Peter Foster
Social media & Marketing by Niger Asije

13th Nov at 7.30pm
Then 21st Nov to 3rd Dec 2017
Tue to Sat at 7.30pm
Sun at 6.30pm
265 Camden High Street, NW1 7BU
http://www.etceteratheatre.com/

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