Progress Theatre - Hannah and Hanna
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Progress Theatre - Hannah and Hanna

9th to 14th October 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Friendship wins against the odds

Common interests outweigh cultural differences in John Retallack's one-act play

Hannah & Hanna, at Progress Theatre, Reading, from Monday, October 9 to Saturday, October 14

Hannah lives in Margate. She hates it and the asylum seekers who live there. Hanna has come to live in Margate. She loves it. She is an asylum seeker from Kosovo.

This is the simple plot of Progress Theatre's latest production, Hannah and Hanna by John Retallack. First produced at the Edinburgh Fringe, this one-act play contains a message and deals with a number of important issues but, on the whole, avoids the usual pitfalls of similar offerings by being neither didactic nor dull.

It did, however, tend to lose its momentum towards the end. The horrors of the journey to Macedonia would have been better hinted at during the play rather than lectured at this point, as it detracted from the relationship between the two girls.

Miranda Mayston played Hanna, a typical bright, chirpy 16-year-old, working part-time at the local supermarket, hanging out with her boyfriend Bullfrog and liking nothing more than karaoke evenings at their local club. Miranda had a good voice and was very relaxed singing the several songs included in the play The subtle changes in her personality as she moved from hatred of the asylum seekers en masse to the deep and loyal friendship with Hanna were handled very well.

As Hanna the refugee, Taz Burns had the more difficult role, repressed and quieter than her English counterpart. Taz had the quality of stillness, very unusual in a girl her age. She was perfectly at ease when portraying a happy young teenager but you were always aware that she had experienced horrors in her past that coloured her present. Both girls slipped from their characters to portraying their relatives and friends easily and with great style.

Two girls on a black box set with just three boxes and two movable screens sounds pretty dull, but director Ali Carroll, with the help of lighting designer Patrick Keys and choreographer Kimberley James, created an extremely watchable evening.

This play was obviously important to Ali, who should be very pleased with the result.

JANET BENNETT