A poetic fable about an immigration system not dissimilar to the UK’s own, Sami Ibrahim’s A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain uses a fairytale premise to dissect the realities of the hostile environment. Utilising dreamy movement, storytelling and direct address, this story feels both other-worldly and pointedly terrestrial.
A refugee from a far-flung land, Elif has secured a job shearing sheep to make clouds. As her circumstances change, and the country she inhabits shows itself to be less and less welcoming, she sets off on a quest to gain citizenship from the King. More Grimm than Disney, her story takes darker and more sinister turns, as reality begins to creep in to the initial fantasy.
Sara Hazemi gives a strong, nuanced performance as Elif. Progressing from a wide-eyed teenager to a harassed single mother, her movement and delivery are compelling throughout. As Elif’s haughty landlady and daughter, Lily, Princess Khumalo brings sincerity to her roles, with pithy asides to the audience that break through the mythology. As Elif’s faithless lover, and later a fellow refugee, Samuel Tracy is persuasive and engaging.
There is much to recommend this production, from Ryan Dawson Laight’s cleverly constructed design to Yasmin Hafesji’s thoughtful direction. Ibrahim’s text lacks pace at times, but the inventive allegorical elements and range of characters gives the narrative punch. Once the fantasy of the piece begins to give way to a more representative style, some of the magic is lost, and the latter part of the play feels somewhat heavy with references. That said, it is an astute and intelligent story with plenty for the audience to take away.
By Deborah Klayman
A Sudden Violent Burst of Rain plays at Summerhall, Edinburgh until 27th August 2022 (not 21st or 23rd).