REVIEW: Kin, National Theatre ✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Kin at the National Theatre created by Gecko Artistic Director Amit Lahav.

Kin National Theatre
Amit Lahav and Company. Photo:L Malachy Luckie

National Theatre
16 January 2023
4 Stars

It begins with celebration, music, tradition, and ends with the performers sharing their migrant stories. Created by Gecko Artistic Director Amit Lahav, the central story is of his grandmother’s journey from Yemen to Palestine in 1932, to escape persecution.  Woven into the piece are other migrant stories, a visual narrative, where we hear snatches of dialogue, in many languages, superb physical theatre. It tells of the devasting consequences of political decisions and lives swept away, cultures suppressed and destroyed, fleeing and survival and the petty cruelty of border guards. It’s a production packed with semiotics and meaning, creating arresting stage imagery, the oppressed have yellow streaks painted onto their backs, puppetry that create ancestors, and cigarettes as symbols of power. Yet at times, the pace is frenetic and the piece becomes incomprehensible.

Kin Gecko Company
Photo: Malachy Luckie

I am aware that it is a deliberate intention, to reflect the chaos of migration, the routine of changing documentation and demands. But it’s sometimes unclear whether we are being told the tale of two or three families, and our emotional investment is undermined, it’s tricky to get hold of one character. Occasionally, stillness would tell a thousand words, yet we are pushed onto another sequence, with some of them a little too repetitive. Yet where it does impress is the collaboration with Dave Price’s score, incorporating traditional music and excerpts from soundtracks, and the excellent, spare yet effective, lighting design, especially a spotlight that floats past, representing ships not hearing or seeing the migrants, and lights shone into the audience, to single us out.

Kin National Theatre
Photo: Malachy Luckie

The ensemble is excellent, and it leads to a powerful climax all too familiar from out TV screens and current debates, hitting the emotional solar plexus. And the meaning of the piece is finally pulled into sharp focus, it doesn’t matter what culture or belief you are assigned, we are all kin.

Playing until 27 January 2024.

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