The Macedonian Tendency: A LondonPlay About Modern Macedonian Refugees from Greece!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A LondonPlay About Modern Macedonian Refugees from Greece!

I never heard of this play, but what struck me was that Olympia Dukakis plays an ethnic Macedonian from Greece! Holly feta cheese Batman! She is a cousin to Michael Dukakis, who was the 1988 candidate for U.S. president from the Democratic Party. Our friend Michael Dukakis wrote to Harvard University objecting to the inclusion of Macedonians in the Encyclopedia of Ethnic Groups in the US. In the same way that Nixon went to China, the UN should appoint Michael Dukakis as the mediator between Greece and Macedonia. Michael can then tell the Greek government the fact of life and all will be well.

Theatre review: Credible Witness | The Guardian :

"Wertenbaker approaches her subject obliquely but the nub of the issue is this. Alexander, a Macedonian teacher, has escaped persecution and made it to Britain; three years later his indomitable mother, Petra, arrives at Heathrow in search of him. Alexander has disappeared into a world of community work and street-cleaning: the proud and institutionally detained Petra goes on hunger-strike until the authorities find her son. Eventually they meet in a confrontation of irreconcilable attitudes: the one embodies an intransigent Macedonian nationalism, the other the necessary assimilation of the exile.

As always, Wertenbaker is not afraid to tackle big issues: above all, she attacks the idea of historical paralysis. Britain, she argues, is locked into a notion of itself as an island fortress destined to repel unwanted boarders. Other nations equally are walled in by their oppressive past: to that end she shows even Petra's chauvinism crumbling. Behind the play lurks a vision of a world where we are not all defined by nationhood and where the free passage of peoples is a sustainable ideal.

Wertenbaker's ideas are fascinating, even if their dramatic resolution is not always plausible. The big mother-son confrontation packs the right emotional punch. But Wertenbaker also invents a harrassed immigration official rather too symbolically named Simon Le Britten. And, while he effectively embodies the arbitrary power and rash certainty of the bureaucrat, the scene where he winds up in a detention centre on New Year's Eve to sort out Petra's case defies belief.

There is a knockdown performance from Olympia Dukakis as Petra, a superb embodiment of maternal and nationalistic pride. Adam Kotz as her son persuasively stands for exiled absorption and there is good work from Clive Merrison as the emotionally involved desk-wallah. Even if you feel Wertenbaker manipulates the dramatic situation to suit the argument, her play adds weight to the growing canon of asylum dramas.

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