From the moment that The Castaways opens, with the radio crackling to life to provide context, and Sam (Charlotte Wood) walks onstage, it is captivating. Set in a world in which rising sea levels have decimated riverside cities and displaced the people living there, The Castaways tells the story of Sam, a young mum, and her son, Alfie, through the new Britain this has created. The staging is deceptively simple; with nothing more than a radio, a stool, a tent and a teddy, the White Tree Theatre Company have created a performance that is utterly riveting and deeply moving.
This is largely due to Wood’s impeccable acting – her performance as Sam is warm, funny and beautifully human. Her versatility is incredible, as she relates the story of her and her son, Alfie, and their journey out from a permanently flooded York to aid centres, migrant camps and finally, to the border. The humour and good spirit she brings to the performance keeps the play moving along, and she brings the story to life as she mimics the other characters she encounters, from friends and family to other migrants.
Rachel Price’s wonderfully-written script imagines what this might look like, for people to become migrants within their own country, and it is harrowing in it’s truth. From the unanswered questions, the bureaucracy, the desperation and the pain of trying to get a life together again, Sam’s story is a stark reminder of what is happening to thousands of people across the world, and of how they are just that – people.
The Castaways asks difficult questions of it’s audience – who we feel deserves help, and when we choose to help them – and turns the debate on migrancy on it’s head. This is not simply, “If immigrants looked like us, would we be more inclined to help them?” This is: “What would you do, if this were you?”
The questions are hard, and the answers are harder, but out of a tough political issue, White Tree Theatre remind us to look at the people, not just the politics. The Castaways is warm and rich (and in some place, outright funny), and it makes the ending all the harder to watch. With a driven and talented team, White Tree is obviously a theatre company to watch out for.
Read more about White Tree Theatre, and about bringing The Castaways to you, here.