Photography: Steve Gregson
Sophia Eleni gives a passionate and devastating performance in ‘On Arriving’, a one-woman play that tells the story of young refugee’s battle to survive. Written by Ivan Faute, the non-linear structure of the story not only reflects the way memories jump about in time, but also, through this shattered prism of storytelling, reinforces the sense of trauma that fuels the narrative.
Cat Robey brings a clear and sympathetic vision of the play to brutal life with her focused and sensitive direction. She prioritises simplicity in a way that ensures Eleni’s performance has the space to fully take flight and captivate. This is also a play that is not afraid to reflect a knowing gaze back at the audience. As our refugee protagonist speaks of “hungry eyes”, I couldn’t help glancing around at all the eyes focused on her, as we waited for her to tell us about her pain. Fortunately the fragmented nature of the storytelling keeps the play from straying into the realm of unbearable misery. Fear, loss, hope, love, and despair all infuse this piece and, while I did cry at one point, the splinters of humour and humanity scattered throughout uplift the play and engage the audience.
‘On Arriving’ is running in the 6pm slot at the Vault Festival until 9th February. It is well worth seeing, and don’t forget to take some cash. While the Vault Festival is a cash free location, there is a collection at the end of the show for Refugee Action. After experiencing this heart-breaking story you’d have to be made of stone not to want to help (if you can afford to, no pressure).