What an unexpected joy this was. Beautiful in both its poetic and physical language, Mohand & Peter is a triumph at Southwark Playhouse
“You know Peter, when I close my eyes I can see my country. I can see my village. I can see my people…”
Quite often, a show’s blurb will promise things that never quite manage to make it onstage. But where Mohand & Peter promises “humour and visual poetry”, boy does it deliver in spades. The scene in which Peter is introduced to a good portion of Mohand’s Arabic-speaking family and has a conversation with each is simply one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year.
And at a moment when peril strikes and our likely lads are both trapped, nearly drowning in the Nile, director Sophie Bertrand Besse contrives some stunning imagery as their movement is soaked in the cerulean wash of Andrew Brock’s lighting. In a show that is barely an hour, has a cast of two and works to reframe refugee experiences for the better, this is no inconsiderable achievement.
Produced by PSYCHEdelight, a participatory theatre company, Mohand & Peter riffs on Mohand’s own experiences as a Sudanese refugee now with ILR in the UK. Unable to visit due to hostile environments all over the show, he takes his Geordie pal Peter on an epic adventure of the mind to his homeland. And in doing so, offers up a rich and nuanced depiction of a country rarely afforded that privilege.
With a memory box of props, some extraordinary flexibility and a genius level of clowning physicality, the pair take us on a journey that is frequently hilarious, occasionally troublingly dark and consistently entertaining. The switching between English and Arabic is cleverly done and in so many cases, the physical language is truly universal. Every audience member will recognise at least three of their family members and chuckle away in that big party scene.
Life-affirming stuff and proof positive, as if it were needed, of the importance in letting people tell their own stories in their own ways.