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Suitcase Civilians present CITIZEN at The Space | Review

Citizen: Nalân Burgess
Citizen: Nalân Burgess

The converted church stage of The Space, on the Isle of Dogs, is an apt setting for the hushed and earnest series of vignette-like reflections on the problems caused by dual-nationality in the 21st century.

Mixing personal monologues, Middle-Eastern myth and song, and verbatim extracts of politicians’ verbiage, the play explores the fraught lives of those of Iranian-American or Iranian-British descent who have been de-housed, exiled, or trapped by geopolitical events beyond their control and the ensuing suspicion and mistreatment.

The character that the play frequently returns to is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned in Iran in 2016 and separated from his wife and young child. Restricted to a refugee camp, he exists in an interstitial world between worlds and, as he later states: “My place is the placeless.”

But whilst the intention is admirable and the range of theatrical devices employed broad (with Iranian tea and dates even being served to audience members at one point), monologue narration dominates any kind of action, leaving the play feeling flat and lacking in dynamism.

Its disjointed structure, attempting to engage with a variety of different experiences and associated issues, leaves the play lacking substance and a coherent thematic thrust. With tens of scene changes, the pace is made sluggish and the precise message muddied.

There is the heart of a very good play in Citizen, and specific praise should go to Nalân Burgess for her committed and sustained performance, but unfortunately, the execution does not meet the scale of the ambition.

2 gold stars

Review by Ben Miller

Drawing on interviews with Iranian migrants & refugees, award-winning company Suitcase Civilians return to The Space with CITIZEN: a powerful new production exploring the blurry line between our identities as humans and ethnic types, and when we stop being seen as one or the other.

A British mother is arrested while visiting family overseas with her baby daughter.
A family of political refugees are moving to Australia to start a new life.
American citizens, working, travelling and holidaying around the world, fall victim to Trump’s executive order against citizens of 7 Muslim countries, and can’t return home.

They are all human. They are all Iranian. Their only crime: their ethnicity.
CITIZEN features a cast and crew comprised of Middle Eastern artists hailing from Iran, Turkey and Israel. It is written and directed by Sepy Baghaei (winner of Best Production at Short+Sweet Sydney 2012) with a cast including Nalân Burgess & David Djemal.

CITIZEN
Dates: April 24th – May 5th 2018
The Space, 269 Westferry Road, London E14 3RS

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