Review: Refugee Boy

West Yorkshire Playhouse

It could have been so didactic as to have been rendered unwatchable. Fortunately, Lemn Sissay’s adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s novel is anything but a lecture.

It is a sweet, funny, highly inventive, brilliantly directed piece of work with universally impressive performances.

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The story of Alem, a refugee from war-torn Africa, it occasionally borders on twee and the language, given its originators, is perhaps less poetic than you might expect. But the power in the piece is that it doesn’t oversell itself as a lesson in why we should empathise with those in need of shelter.

As Alem, Fisayo Akinade has a wonderfully innocent stage presence. You’re rooting for him from the start. His journey is played out on one of the most innovative sets the Courtyard has played host to in recent times, a collection of precariously balanced suitcases used as stairs and a climbing frame. Playing multiple roles, Dominic Gately is staggeringly good.

While it never feels like an Important Piece of Work, the heart in the story is so clear, you can’t help but get the message that the Refugee Boy is a person, with a story. As we all are.

To March 30.

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