Theatre review - Europe

Although David Grieg’s Europe was first staged in Edinburgh twenty-five years ago, the contemporary resonances are clear.

In 1994, the continent was recovering from an economic downturn. Industry was in decline and unemployment was rife. Certain countries were queuing up to join the European Union, others were polarised.

The Berlin Wall had recently fallen and the Cold War was at an end, but the brutal Balkans war caused a refugee crisis that spilled over European borders.

In an unnamed country, Sava (Kevork Malikyan) and Katia (Natalia Tena), two refugees, wait in a deserted railway station for a train that never stops. The officious station master Fret (Ron Cook) encourages them to move on, but with little effect. Where are they to go?

The pair are befriended by Fret’s assistant, Adele (Faye Marsay), who sits on the station’s roof and dreams of travelling through Europe. Meanwhile, Fret’s stance softens when he discovers that he has more in common with Sava than he had first thought.

Adele’s husband, Berlin (Billy Howle), is worried about growing unemployment in the town. Racist thugs prowl the streets like wolves in the night. It’s not long before distrust and despair turn violent.

Michael Longhurst’s opening play as Artistic Director at the Donmar Warehouse is an inspired choice and suggests there may be more politically charged productions to come.

Longhurst is well served by an all-star cast and terrific production standards. Chloe Lamford’s dynamic set, atmospheric lighting from Tom Visser and a memorable soundscape from Ian Dickinson and composer Simon Slater all contribute to an unforgettable night out. 

Donmar Warehouse, running until 10 August

Originally published by Camden Review