Review: We Meet in Paradise at The Forum, Norwich

NNF17. We Meet In Paradise at The Forum in Norwich.
Photo: supplied by Norfolk and Norwich Festival

NNF17. We Meet In Paradise at The Forum in Norwich. Photo: supplied by Norfolk and Norwich Festival. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk and Norwich Festival

We all get so used to listening to the negatives about the refugee crisis, that it comes as a great relief to hear somebody with a positive outlook. 'It changes lives to get engaged,' says Marianne Cornil, co-artistic director of Theatre Fragile which is presenting We Meet In Paradise at The Forum as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

She's talking about her experience in Berlin, where hundreds of people threw open their doors to in-comers in 2015.

Since then, her company has been touring Europe collecting stories from immigrants in crisis. The show woven from this material is rich with threads from Germany, France and now, with the help of local actors and volunteers, from Norwich.

As the show opens we hear recorded tales of exile, and start to piece together the fragments of what is said.

People came to this place by boat or by plane. They often paid somebody, who might or might not have been kind to them. Some saw their boats split; some saw their family flounder in the water.

These floating voices may be lost, but we know exactly where we are. We are in familiar territory. We've heard all this before. It's when things start to move on stage that it becomes unsettling.

A black tea chest spins in front of us. It stops and a giant, masked man pops out of it. His face seems ominously large and his busy hands are stuffing money into his pockets.

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It's a sinister beginning. But soon, his human cargo is making its way towards us. Masked, too, they cock their heads and hope for friendship.

More boxes appear, they spin and split, changing into something resembling market stalls. There is a soup stand, and a clothing stall; there is a place to plant flowers and to fill in forms. A booth stands to one side where anyone can listen to the experiences of refugees in our fine city.

And then the actors draw the audience on stage too. Because what's wonderful about this production, is that it gets everyone up talking, eating soup, sharing experiences and planning for the future together.

Eve Stebbing

We Meet In Paradise is being performed again tonight at 8.30pm at The Forum in Norwich. The performance is free to watch.

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