One of Edinburgh’s Fringe’s many newly written dramas, Ciaran Drysder’s 2044 is a surprisingly gripping performance by the still budding North East Theatre Company. Highly topical with the UK’s current political situation, the play builds on the possibly of a future where Scotland does eventually achieve independence, following the story of three English refugees now stranded in Scotland after most of England has been immersed under water.

2044 makes the prospect of a dystopian future just thirty years away feel chillingly close to reality.

2044 is so named for the year it is set in, directly placing us in a 1984 style, dystopian future. Three English refugees, each from a different family, have been chosen by the Scottish government to be rescued from the incessant floods now consuming England. In exchange, they must adhere to a number of set rules. One states they must be fit to work at all times. Another forbids relationships between any of the refugees. One Liverpudlian, Jasper (Ciaran Drysder) struggles to fit into both these categories as he battles with a worsening cold and finds himself bonding a little too well with his flatmate Maria (Megan Matheson-Adams). All the while, their other flatmate Hayden (Russell Dudley) is keeping a suspiciously close eye on the pair in a constant effort to keep them abiding by the rules.

The variable nature of the plays narrative works well here, often interrupted by robotic monologues explaining more and more background behind the play. Although this seems contrasting, this addition is excellent at enticing the audience, revealing more and more details about the misery the characters are forced to live under and allowing more understanding of their desperate situation.

With the stage laid out in minimalistic style, hosting only a table, chairs and few props, most of the weight of the play is left on the actor’s shoulders. The three of them succeeded beautifully in holding this up, all of them full of emotion that grips from the start, especially in the numerous monologues that space the show. For me though, it was Dudley’s portrayal of Hayden that carried the most weight, the stoic air about him contrasting superbly with the emotion that pours out of Drysder. He was a perfect fit for the character and made everything from subtle emotional changes to dramatic outbursts look entirely natural in his performance.

Though a little slow at first, the topical and political nature of this play is what attracted me in but stories of the character’s twists and turns left a surprisingly emotional impact. The writing, though in no ways perfect, brought an unexpectedly realistic feel to what could have been an unnecessarily convoluted idea. Combined with some commendable acting skills, 2044 makes the prospect of a dystopian future just thirty years away feel chillingly close to reality. 

Reviews by Megan Atkins

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The Blurb

A dystopian future set in 2044, where Scotland is an independent nation and England has been tragically flooded. This is the story of three English refugees, housed in the new Scottish Refugee Estates being run under observation of Scottish Government officials. Deceit. Love. Justice. And forgiveness.