Theatre Review - Lampedusa

Last year an estimated 4,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to escape hardship or persecution in perilously unsafe boats. Despite the risk and terrifying statistics, thousands of migrants continue to head to the Italian island of Lampedusa, perceived as the gateway to Europe.

Anders Lustgarten’s vital, poignant play explores the perils of deprivation. Stefano (Ferdy Roberts) a former fisherman, serves as a coastguard, retrieving corpses from the sea. It’s “the job no one else will take”.

Running parallel to Stefano’s story is that of Denise (Louise Mai Newberry) who also works in a profession few can stomach. In Austerity Britain, the unemployed have fallen further into debt. Denise, mixed white and East Asian, funds her degree by working as a debt collector for a payday loan company. She is spat upon and sworn at: “Middle-class people think racism is free speech now,” she complains.

Stefano and Denise deal with desperate people and learn humility. They realise that migrants are erroneously lambasted as a drain on resources and welfare scroungers. Both characters start out cynical and prejudiced, but the kindness of strangers helps nurture their compassionate side.

Steven Atkinson immerses the audience in the action. Sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches, surrounded by fellow audience members, we are made to feel as though we are on a boat.

The actors emerge from our midst, reminding us of our shared humanity. Thankfully, this terrific play ends with the redemptive power of hope.

Soho Theatre Upstairs


020 7478 0100

Review originally published in Camden Review