The Sky Is Safe
14th September 2017
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
During the madness that is the Edinburgh Fringe I saw that Matthew Zajac was performing in a new self-penned play, The Sky is Safe. After seeing Matthew in his extremely excellent ‘Tailor of Inverness’ of 2016 I didn’t want to dilute the experience, & so gladly opted to wait until it toured itself into the Brunton Theatre the other night. I was glad to wait, for I found the play to be a highly intellectual, explicitly detailed & ultimately satisfying slice of theatre. Of the play’s substance, in an earlier interview with the Mumble, Matthew told us;
In 2012 I was stranded in Istanbul for nine days while I waited for an Iranian visa which eventually was refused due to my UK nationality… I had a couple of interesting encounters on Istanbul’s streets and wrote about them. Last year I was pondering a new project for Dogstar and remembered the Istanbul experience. I learned that there were now around 350,000 Syrian refugees in the city and I decided to try to marry my earlier experience with that of Syrian women trying to make a life in the city. In March this year, I returned to Istanbul and, with the help of a local NGO, I had the great privilege of meeting and interviewing a number of Syrian women in their homes. A lot of what Amal, the female character in The Sky Is Safe comes from these interviews.
The central theme of the play is the relationship between Matthew’s Scottish gentleman, Gordon, & the female refugee, Amal, played with consummate confidence by Dana Hajaj. The story leaps from place to place through time locale, & at all times the chemistry between Gordon & Amal is quite pleasant to watch as they trip through the ordealistic travails of the Syrian refugee. Stagecraftwise, the music is excellen, all Turkish strings & twangs, while the set is smart enough – a soft-watching medley of warm squares of quasis-granite. I also found the explosive & light-flashing portrayal of a bombing scene stupendously atmospheric. The Sky is Safe is an hour long, Fringe-length of course, & the brevity is welcome in a play with just two actors. That doesn’t mean we only have two characters, however, while the brooding presence of the interviewees is never afar away. ‘My name is Marwa,’ we hear, ‘It means a smooth white rock. You need love to heal. My name is Jadwa. It means gift. We have men in power & the country is destroyed. My name is Raina… My name is Farida…’ etc, etc.
There are many strands to The Sky is Safe, whose well-researched material moulded into genuine entertainment by the slick Dogstar team. Theatre is about transporting the witness to another world, even when that world grates against our station in a fertile, wealthy island. There are real tragedies happening out there, real suffering, real & epic tragedies born of bureaucratic bullshit, all of which are conjoined by the spirit of hope; & although documentaries & news channels may be switched off or over, to get the same information from a trip to the theatre means one’s mind must become transplanted with the truth. In such a fashion The Sky is Safe is a welcome success, for the characters we are presented or more-than-real, the amplified essence of these desperate – for some – times.
Reviewer : Damo
Photos: Laurence Winram
It is still possible to catch The Sky is Safe on its tour of Scotland;
Sept 18-20 : Eden Court, Inverness
Sept 21 : Reay Village Hall
Sept 21 : PPP, Wick
Sept 23 : Durness Village Hall