Mamet Leigh’s Give Me The Sun offers a sensitive and unique perspective on the immigrant experience at the Blue Elephant Theatre
“I just want to know what made you decide to come here”
At a moment when Tory leadership candidates dissemble shamelessly to wrangle their own immigrant biographies into voter-winning stories that allow them to support continued deportations to Rwanda, there’s a real power in hearing a similar story told with unsparing truth about the realities for the majority who don’t arrive with family wealth to plug them into private education and onwards. Mamet Leigh’s Give Me The Sun tells one such tale of a father and son, tracking the difficulties for both first- and second-generation immigrants in (re-)establishing their identities in a society that isn’t always the most welcoming.
Baba emigrated to the UK from Egypt with his four-year-old son Bashir more than ten years ago and sacrificed much. A comfortable family life as a doctor has been replaced with a job at Tesco and a council house but Baba is determined to truly leave Egypt behind, forsaking his mother tongue, the music of his past, any mention of his former home. Now Bashir has turned 18 though, he’s hungry to know more about all of this, haunted by the figure of his late mother who speaks to him in a language he can’t speak, isolated from extended family with whom he can’t communicate, caught between two identities that don’t feel complete.
At just an hour, Give Me The Sun may be short but it doesn’t feel it, as father and son go head to head in a series of aching conflicts. Aso Sherabayani (Baba) and Joseph Samimi (Bashir) have developed a highly naturalistic connection that feels utterly convincing, an ease to their interactions even as they rise in intensity. The exasperation of a father who wants his son to appreciate his sacrifices unquestioningly, the frustration of a son who feels cheated of a heritage kept at arm’s reach. Leigh wisely withholds a measure of specific detail which ups the universality of his play’s voice and the result is highly affecting.
Majid Mehdizadeh’s sensitive direction allows this all to play out with elegance. And Jida Akil’s set design is wonderfully, deceptively simple – full of subtle detail that juxtaposes a perspective from both UK and Egypt, using sand and ropes too to suggest the impermanence of this particular home and further echoing the complex realities for so many, asking for the compassion that is sadly so lacking in this administration.