Lunatic 19’s, Finborough Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

As ICE parasitically invade peaceful American neighbourhoods and imprisons people in concentration camps, the country’s president spaffs racism from his twitter feed and white supremacists take to the streets. Life for immigrants in the US, documented or not, is terrifying right now and Tegan McLeod’s “deportational road trip”, certainly proves this. Though immigration control and the human face it takes on here is horrifying, McLeod’s script never quite settles on the narrative she wants to tell.

Gracie wakes up in a Kentucky hospital after a car accident, unable to move her head because it’s in a cage-like brace. The inside of her skull itches where each of the 19 screws hold her together, but the nurses won’t answer her call. Instead, she is now in the care of a Latino immigration official called Alec who needs to get her into a van so she can be driven back to Mexico. She hasn’t been there since she was three years old, and knows nobody in the country.

His brutality succeeds and it seems like a straightforward, albeit awful, journey will ensue. But McLeod includes plenty of surprises, though what begins as a powerful criticism of US immigration policy turns into a story of a battle of wills and personal grief. There are numerous, thematic explorations that take meandering paths from the central story – though the notion of a ‘central story’ is roundly rejected by the end of the play that is partly in the present, and partly in the past.

Devon Anderson and Gabriela Garcia give searing performances as Alec and Gracie. Both are adept at vulnerability and ruthlessness, and their relationship seeps tension and danger. McLeod’s script is a piercing character study of the pair, using biting dialogue, ruthless violence and deep, emotional excavation. These two actors, on a sloping, monochromatic set that could be rust or blood, make the 90 minutes pass quickly, but the point of their journey got dropped along the way.

Lunatic 19’s runs through 21 July in London.

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