David Greig’s Prophetic Play Europe Portrays A Divided Continent

Europe, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★☆

David Greig’s Prophetic Play Europe Portrays A Divided Continent Europe, Donmar Warehouse 4
Photo: Marc Brenner

Refugees are stranded at a national border in Europe, while economic decline fuels far-right nationalism which blames foreigners for the troubles. No, not a new play about how divided the European continent is today, but David Greig’s prophetic drama Europe from 1994. He may have been inspired by those fleeing the Bosnian War in the early nineties, but there are uncanny contemporary parallels with migrants crossing the Mediterranean to escape conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Europe is set in an unnamed country at a railway station where trains no longer stop. A homeless father and daughter are resting here as they decide what to do next. The father overcomes the initial suspicions of the officious stationmaster, while the daughter finds love with the female assistant, but local unemployed yobs target them as ‘aliens’ with violent consequences.

Photo: Marc Brenner

In 20 short scenes, Greig mixes gritty naturalism and poetic metaphor to create a disturbing portrait of civilised ideals of European unity under threat. It’s a terrific choice by Michael Longhurst for his first show as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, and his imaginative production is full of persuasive power.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Chloe Lamford’s highly effective design of a crumbling station, backed by strong lighting effects from Tom Visser and sound design from Ian Dickinson evoking passing trains, finishes with a coup de théâtre as the ticket office is set on fire.

Kevork Malikyan conveys a touchingly stoic dignity as the refugee father who, as an ex-railwayman himself, sympathises with proud stationmaster Ron Cook’s fears of being sidelined. Natalia Tena gives the daughter the tough instincts of a survivor, softened by guard Faye Marsay’s emotional directness, while the toxic masculinity of the latter’s embittered husband Billy Howle goes off the rails.

Europe, Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX.Tickets £10-£40, until 10 August 2019.

Last Updated 01 July 2019