Harry Henderson reviews A Strange New Space at Summerhall, Edinburgh
This simple children’s show touches on complex issues of home, separation and the refugee crisis. Using a cardboard box and the few items inside a rucksack, Tessa Bide tells the story of Amira – a young girl who must leave her home and her mother, and embark on a journey all by herself. Using the metaphor of space travel, Amira is rocketed into space and lands on an alien planet whose people and customs she doesn’t understand; this is a lovely idea and allows the children in the audience to really engage with Amira’s story.
Tessa Bide has decided to tackle these complex issues by taking the non-verbal route, and she is able to establish Amira’s feelings of loss and disorientation through expression and movement alone. There are some moments when the audience might have fared better with some spoken language though, particularly in the middle section when Amira is trying to find a place to settle. At this moment there were children asking questions about the narrative action; this is a shame as Bide intends this piece to be a launchpad for younger audience to discuss the refugee crisis, and yet I think many of them will be more focused on piecing together the plot.
Bide’s connection with the audience cannot be faulted. She has some beautiful moments of interaction, using her simple props and puppets to communicate Amira’s emotions. There is some excellent sound design and original music which helps to direct the tone of the piece too. All in all, this is a sweet, emotive piece of children’s theatre, but at times the narrative could have been more clearly portrayed.