With news stories constantly warning of the problems caused by immigration while at the same time extolling the virtues of an immigrant population on the UK economy, the Traverse Theatre’s latest play, Cherry Blossom, looks to be arriving at just the right time.
Starting out in present day Poland and centring on a typical Polish family, we are soon introduced to their dilemma, one surely shared by many in their situation: should one of them move to Britain to start a new life with the aim of bringing the rest of the family with them when the money starts flowing?
Taking this as its starting point, playwrite Catherine Grosvenor starts to weave a complex tale of hope and suffering, complementing her fictional story with that of a real-life Polish immigrant who died in a Canadian airport.
The plays uses both impressive visual tricks – a large white panelled “stage” is maneuvered into various positions as information is beamed down from the ceiling – and an innovative way of allowing the characters to speak to each other using both their native tongue and English, to produce a visually stimulating experience that causes the viewer to think about a number of situations simultaneously.
Although having various actors play each others characters does disorientate, the gist of the story is possible to follow and the actors do well in their attempts to give each character individual traits.
Such bold attempts to stimulate discussion should be applauded and I hope that this play is successful enough to inspire actual immigrant writers to document their experiences into future works.
Review by Jonathan Melville
Visit the Cherry Blossom preview for more information