“A very heartfelt performance from two fine young actresses”
Hannah and Hanna is a story examining two sides of the immigration debate, which, given UKIP’s performance in this year’s general election, and the more recent events involving migrants in Calais, couldn’t be more perfectly timed.
Hannah (played by Cassandra Hercules), lives in Margate, Kent, where she’s been her whole life. Like her boyfriend and peers, she’s fiercely anti-immigration, believing that local resources should be kept for the locals. Hanna (Serin Ibrahim) is a refugee from Kosovo and sees Margate as a dreamland, and all she wants is to fit in and be accepted. Their worlds collide and a special bond is formed between them, transcending the prejudices of their families.
The play is very simply staged, with character and location indicated by token props and subtle changes in lighting. Between the two of them, Hercules and Ibrahim play a multitude of characters, ages and nationalities, but are at their best when playing Hannah and Hanna. Ibrahim brings beautiful sensitivity and naivety, while Hercules is vibrant with energy and passion. Both actresses, in their twenties in real life, capture and portray their 16 year old characters effortlessly, and through their physicality and delivery of the script it is uncannily believable that they are indeed that young. The bond they form is genuine, and the chemistry between the two is strong enough to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
However, despite being a very commendable effort from the performers, this play does fall down in certain areas, with parts of the script requiring a lorry-sized suspension of disbelief. While all the necessary ingredients are there (characters representing different points of view, a decent story arc and plenty of dramatic tension), it does all feel very rushed, and at times hard to follow.
Hannah is won around by Hanna’s charm very early on, and the pair seem to form an unbreakable friendship after only five minutes. The final 10 minutes of this play are quite confusing, with lots of ups and downs and jumps in time and location making it quite difficult to follow, and the ending isn’t as resounding or emphatic as it could have been considering the topic. What’s really missing is that, apart from the two central characters, there isn’t really a sense of anyone having learnt anything or viewpoints changing, so at worst it feels a bit pointless, and at best just a nice story.
I believe that if the company had longer to work on the piece (it was developed in just two weeks), and were prepared to make some changes to the initial script to extend and clarify it, this could be something very special. At the moment it’s a very heartfelt performance from two fine young actresses, but little more.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 23 August)
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