There is a school of thought that says laughter developes as a reaction to tension and tragedy, that we need to laugh to deal with suffering. If that is true, shouldn‘t some of the Sub-Saharan human tragedies be fountains of laughter? At least that is the philosophy behind Leftovers, the new show dealing with refugee‘s in Kenya and the surronding area.
Tom Kelsey is Harry a young, slightly mormony man that is taking up a position in NGO in Kenya in order to try and help the millions caught in refugee limbo. It takes less than a day for him to reach a point of complete exasperation, with his cynical (or realistic) boss, and people exploiting the system, highlighting the sheer scale of the problem. As he says, he doesn‘t deal with stress well, a slight problem. His principle foil is the veteran Mr Banks, played by Sam Halpenny. The character is a glorious mix of a used car salesman and an old colonial lord, making us wonder what on earth he is doing in Kenya.
We meet several refugees, most of them exaggerated stereotypes. For the first hour or so the play makes it clear that the NGO is not doing the job it wants, or needs to do. The encounters between Harry and the Africans are laugh out loud funny, but underneath simmers the pain and tragedy of people in need of help, just not the help Harry can provide. That tension is the heart of the show.
The second half is noticably stronger, benifiting from the huge amount of set-up in the earlier part of the show, as Harry is forced to admit he has limits and will not be able to help most of the people coming to him. The play asks great questions about third world development programs, or wether they work at all or just make it all worse. Thankfully the writer doesn‘t claim to have the right answers, but he just might have some of the right questions.
This subject tackles some serious questions, but does it brilliantly and never forgets to be entertaining. Behind every joke are layers of meaning, pain and real problems we aren‘t talking about, not to mention putting some characters on stage that don‘t usually get attention. A wonderful evening out, a story that goes from strength to strength. 4/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Leftovers is currently showing at the Tristan Bates Theatre until Saturday 6th June. For more information on the production, visit here…