‘Scattered’ – theatre review

Created and directed by John Yong and Ceri Roberts

performed at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, 12.30 28th November.

What is theatre? Can I lose myself, the weight of my own identity, within it?

Scattered is the story of two young men, not quite boys, who have lost their security, their families. One is a Syrian asylum seeker in Wales, his father dead and his mother remaining in Damascus. The other is an elder sibling, sent away; together with his younger brother to his grandfather’s, while his parent’s attempt the repair of their partnership.

This play is a strongly structured thing and that essence begins with the set. A roll out oblong of astroturf is the turf, a territory, on which Owen, played by Sion Emyr, and Yasser, played by James El-Sharawy will make their relationship. Two crates and a tree make up the balance; towers and fortresses and a tree represents both nostalgia for what we leave behind and hope for what we can become.

The characters examine who they are and how we love our homelands. There’s a lot of discourse about identity, how that depends on memory and culture and who we are when we have no-one but ourselves.

There are many turning points, as the two meet, examine and discard various preconceptions. But there is a lightness of touch that steers clear of moralising. I’m left very much with a phrase of Owen’s that asserts that the two are in the same boat. Yasser modifies the idea, asserting that they are in different boats even if the boats are same size and move in parallel, for now.

Scattered was produced by Clwyd Theatr Cymru for Young People and treads carefully, without being patronising, the line between education and assumed knowledge. It covers a lot of factual ground and takes a quick mallet to the mass media’s lack of representation of the Syrian Civil War.

The performance of the play was at lunchtime, designed to be given in a space not traditionally given over to theatre. Its message about the obligation and values of compassion was sharp and bright. Yasser’s words about his journey to Holyhead, by uncertain roads, by truck and via Calais invoke the uncertainty of existence. They invoked the familiar landscape, re-defined it through Yasser’s experience and reminded us what it is to be lost.

This theatre was, as theatre should be, entertainment, education and exit.

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