The Interpreter, Home, written by Hekate Papadaki, directed by Lucy Allan and presented by House of Orphans, centres on a Kurdish lady, Hevi, who has been institutionalised for 19 years, spending much of that time sedated or restrained. She doesn’t speak, except one word over and over, and appears trapped in her own world.
A new doctor has taken over her case, Dr Parry, who is determined to find a way to unlock her mind, before the ‘administration’ take the easy way out and sedate her again. She hires a young student, Nalin, as an interpreter, to try to communicate with her, the first time anyone has spoken to her in her own language for many years. As time goes on Nalin crosses the boundaries of professionalism in an effort to reach Hevi, spurred on tiny reactions from her like the hint of a smile and the humming of a traditional lullaby, and in doing so Nalin also starts to open the door to her own past and culture, and reconnect with her own family.
Quite a lot of the 24:7 plays I have seen this year deal with heavy subject matter, and although this touches on the horrors that Hevi must have experienced, and the complexities of Kurdish history, it doesn’t allow itself to be led by them. At its heart it is a tender story, simply told, about a woman who has been lost for a very long time, and the people who start to help her find a way back to herself, and is all the more effective for this.
We get glimpses of Kurdish past, and present day culture is portrayed in an affectionate and respectful way. Whilst people in the play have undoubtedly suffered, the narrative is not about the suffering, it is about the people. The staging is simple but slick, there is plenty of warmth, some nice comic touches and excellent performances, especially from the three central characters Hevi (Hilly Barber), Nalin (Jade Greyul) and Dr Parry (Alice Brockway).
I do think there are elements of the script that require a little more work if it is developed further, I particularly thought that Nalin’s background could have benefitted from more focus to highlight the parallel journey that she takes over the course of the play, but there is a limit to what you can do in the strict one hour limit of the 24:7 festival.
Overall I found this a lovely play, with engaging characters and an extremely touching and hopeful ending.