Theatre review: The Other

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It begins unpromisingly, this 75-minute piece by Breton writer-performer Gael Le Cornec: there’s what seems like an awkwardly-told children’s story presented in shadow play, with Le Cornec providing stereotyped voices both for the child, little Mana, and for her grandmother, who – when war comes, brought by strange men with pumpkin heads – sends her off on a journey.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Institut Francais d’Ecosse (Venue 134)

Mana comes from a yellow-red planet of mud and sand but she knows that somewhere, retreating ever further into the distance, is a beautiful blue planet, where the war does not reach. So despite constant threats of death – and some moments when she seems to pass beyond death – she sets off on the long walk to safety, picking up a friendly doll called Manita on the way, who becomes her family and companion.

Her journey leads her into some terrible dangers and abuses, including a final horrifying implied rape by the “unicorn” that carries her to the blue planet; but in a sense, after an hour, that’s barely the beginning of the story, as Mana discovers that the people of the blue planet are not very friendly, and begins to undergo the often shocking treatment meted out to unaccompanied child refugees arriving in western Europe. Le Carnec’s dramatic account of that experience, in the final scenes, is almost unbearably powerful and moving.

Between them, she and director Ben Samuels have produced an essential show, for those interested in the refugee crisis that has formed one of the key themes of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and in the special plight of children caught up in it.

Until 28 August. Today 2pm.

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