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Lunatic 19’s

by on 12 July 2019

Chain Drive: a Deportational Road Trip

Lunatic 19’s

by Tegan McLeod

Gangway at the Finborough Theatre, Earl’s Court, until 3rd August

Review by Eleanor Lewis

Opening a review with “In the present political climate…” is probably unwise at the moment. I’m calculating the amount of readers likely to roll their eyes and move onto less exhausting things, tennis perhaps. But let’s live on the edge!

In the current political climate there is much mileage to be got from, well pretty much everything really, the deportation of undocumented immigrants in the US being just one of many controversial themes around which to weave a drama.  ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) raids are due this weekend in the US which makes Lunatic 19’s timely to say the least.

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This two-hander at the Finborough Theatre in Earls Court tells the story of Gracie, an undocumented immigrant, and Alec from ICE who has arrived at her hospital bed to deport her forcibly back to Mexico. Gracie has lived, worked and filed her taxes in Kentucky for twenty years, she’s recovering from a car crash with significant injuries and wearing a head brace. Nonetheless, she is handcuffed and put into a van, to be driven by Alec out of the country.

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What follows, from the road trip narrative point of view, is fairly predictable. These two characters develop and interact in the way you might expect them to. It is almost The African Queen in a Van. Devon Anderson does a lovely job as Alec from ICE. Alec is a character forced by family circumstances to do a job he despises, but with enough self-respect to do it professionally. Every part of this man’s personal struggle is visible, you feel for him and you respect him despite his job.

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Gabriela Garcia arguably had the bigger challenge playing the strong, stroppy, no-push-over Gracie. Strong women shouldn’t have to be endearing, nor should you need to make them endearing for the sake of a drama. That said, playwright Tegan McLeod has in fact written a witty, sarky, funny (and strong) character, and she’s funny from the start, but this I know because the programme contains the script. This is how Gracie has survived, she has entertained, she has made people like her or laugh with her and thereby got what she needed. But either by direction, or by playing, Gracie’s wit took time to show itself. She was loud and she was taking no nonsense, but the fully rounded clever, witty character Gracie is didn’t register for quite a while, which was a shame. Strong women are understandably ‘hot’ at present, but there are many types of strong, ‘loud’ is only one optional element. Once fully established however, Gracie was a warm, inspiring, spiky presence on stage.

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The Finborough Theatre is an ideal space for this intense drama. The clever use of the small stage together with Kevin Treacy’s lighting and Edward Lewis’ sound created both the institutional glare of public buildings and the soothing calm of the sea, transporting the audience with Gracie and Alec along their journey.

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Tegan McLeod’s new play is an interesting journey through a number of themes: the state of play on immigration in the US raises questions about who belongs where, what qualifies them to belong and who decides. Alec himself is an immigrant but he has documents. Alongside this is the question of new beginnings. Gracie has difficulty with pregnancy, she has miscarried more than once but there is perhaps the promise of new life again. The significance of the title I will leave to be discovered by the next set of audience members. This is a smart play, efficiently performed and providing food for thought for a 21st century audience.

Eleanor Lewis
July 2019

Photography by Marian Medic

From → Drama, Reviews

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