The Drift, Traverse Theatre,
***** (5 stars)
The Drift is a mesmerising one-woman show written and performed by Hannah Lavery in which she reveals the pain of her [mostly non-] relationship with her father and the continuing stream of insults and gibes she suffers as a result of her extremely tangled mixed-race heritage.
Hannah’s father died suddenly in 2014. After a long period of estrangement, they were beginning to reach out to each other again – but he died from a heart attack while she, all unknowing, was reading one of her poems to an appreciative audience.
I should love to see a copy of the script – it’s pure poetry as it shifts through time and place, weaving together a picture of her complex heritage – Scotland, West Africa, Jamaica, Burma, India; slaves, slavers, ordinary folks and aristocrats; vocal and silent.
Hannah is filled with rage – rage at her father for being absent from so much of her life and for dying with so much unsaid between then; rage at the Scots involved in the slave trade who took advantage of and abandoned defenceless women, creating a race of half-breeds; rage at the continuing merciless persecution of children and adults who aren’t accepted as belonging to the country in which they live – Where do you come from? Here. No, where do you come from? – no matter how many generations of ancestors have lived in the same place…
And the rage is symptomatic of Hannah’s nearly unbearable pain. History repeats itself endlessly; there is the longing to belong and the continuing reminder of forever being seen as the outsider; the pain for her children who also suffer from the ‘casually racist’ remarks made by their peers as well as adults passing in the street.
It must have taken a phenomenal amount of courage to write and perform this story – especially to a nice white mostly middle-class Edinburgh audience: I wonder how many of us will have come away from the theatre determined to examine ourselves and root out those [hopefully] unconscious, unthinking attitudes towards our fellow-Scots.
Hannah’s introduction to her play begins Our Scottish history is not a fixed thing. It changes under observation and through investigation. We would be fools to think we are done with it, that it is written. We would be fools to think our history is done with us, its secrets spilled, and that it has been spoken by all those who should speak it, heard by all those who should hear it. She invites us to look at ourselves and the stories we tell about ourselves and others around us, while finding a way to begin making peace with her heritage and her father. It’s a wonderful piece of writing, and a deeply moving story.
The Drift, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, RUN ENDED