Hannah and Hanna

With current situation in Calais, the rise of UKIP, depressing rhetoric used by politicians to describe migrants, this play could not be staged at a more fitting time. Despite being written in 2000 and set in 1999, it is somewhat disheartening to see how little has really changed. Substitute Kosovan for Syrian, and we are practically in the same hate-filled situation depicted in Hannah and Hanna.

Hannah and Hanna reminds us of the importance of our shared humanity and the need for basic decency.

The play centres around Margate, one of many towns in the UK where Kosovan refugees were put up in hotels during the Kosovo war. Hannah and Hanna are both 16, living in Margate, and love pop music. Yet whilst British Hannah spends her time with her National Front friends, Kosovan Hanna is trying to understand why the locals have taken against her and the other refugees. As the tensions escalate into violence their unlikely friendship is forged.

The show itself is surprisingly fun, with some genuinely very funny moments, whilst remaining consistent in its tone. The performers, Cassandra Hercules (Hannah) and Serin Ibrahim (Hanna), are engaging, fresh, and altogether very watchable. The pair also take on a myriad of other characters, telling their story together, and it is here that their talents become abundantly clear.

Despite the strengths of the actors, the script itself is a little jarring and heavy-handed. Whilst the author John Retallack manages to get across the severity of the situation, he does so at the expense of creating believable characters. Hannah in particular does not have the voice of a believable 16 year old girl, instead it feels as though Retallack has decided his characters will just be mouthpieces for the views he wishes to express. This flaw would be more of an issue if it were not for the talented Hercules and Ibrahim, who still manage to find depth in what could be quite two dimensional characters.

Overall this play is well worth a watch, not just for its talented cast and classic 90s’ playlist, but also because of its important core message. Amongst the UKIP and far-right rhetoric circulating at the moment, Hannah and Hanna reminds us of the importance of our shared humanity and the need for basic decency.

Reviews by Marthe de Ferrer

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The Blurb

Having fled her own country, Hanna, 16, from Kosovo meets Hannah, 16, from Margate. Can a shared love of karaoke bring about an unlikely friendship or will the racist tensions of small town Britain prevail? At a time when UKIP shares a stage with the major UK political parties and prejudice is being granted a legitimate face, John Retallack's pulsating classic with razor-sharp dialogue and an uplifting karaoke score remains as relevant as it was when it premiered in 2001. 'A little scorcher that gets right to the heart of community tensions' (Guardian).