Nur (Hoda Bentaher) and Jaden (Noof McEwan) have taken several boats and lorries to get from a place that no longer exists to the room in which they now live with eight-month-old baby, Aya. The baby keeps them together and drives them apart. Jaden cares for her during the day, while Nur goes to college, dreaming on the bus of nuzzling Aya, but reluctant to pick up the child when she returns.
They all dream of a better future, including the baby, who sleeps in a buggy for want of a cot and has a misshapen head to show for it. Brilliantly played by the very grown-up Jasmine Jones, this baby not only speaks but has all the coy, lip-quivering, manipulative cunning – and utter defencelessness – of a tiny child.
Dealing with the violent past and coping with the bleak present takes up the trio’s energies, and resentments grow. When Nur brings khat leaves into the room and Jayden propagates them, the real and the hallucinatory tumble into each other. Anxieties multiply and menacing, bazooka-toting, human-size bunnies emerge from the wardrobe.
Like a surreal Harold Pinter play, Josh Azouz’s brilliantly warped fairytale, with its images of Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and a beanstalk that must be destroyed, is very weird and uncomfortably funny. Ned Bennett’s production, which brings an unsettling horror sensibility to the domestic, is utterly sure of itself. The axe hanging high on the wall to be used “in case of emergency” declares itself as loudly as the gun in Hedda Gabler.
This show is beautifully put together, from Max Johns’s cunningly simple design in which the pinks and Day-Glo colours of the nursery collide with floating furniture, to the growing sense of danger evoked by Giles Thomas’s sound design. And the audience must participate if there is to be any hope at all for these three. This is yet another theatrical happy-ever-after for the Yard.