My entire body was jolted by the clanging sound of the doors as they were slammed shut and locked us into the tight industrial steel space, located only steps from the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh. Just moments prior I had been a part of the world outside, where people were taking in a pleasant night in downtown Raleigh — having a meal at a restaurant close by or a glass of wine after a busy day’s work. Locked inside, I was now with strangers and with the characters of Burning Coal Theatre Company and CAM Raleigh’s co-production of The Container, bearing witness to the struggle of people who are yearning for a safe, happy and hopefully productive life.
London-based playwright Clare Bayley’s provocative depiction of migrant-smuggling provoked an unsettling sense of anxiety for people who seek refuge in a new country, where just maybe they will realize the ” American Dream.” These deeply layered characters come alive in this small dark space, and the trauma of their circumstances saturate the space … palpably present.
As each character’s identity and way of being is exposed, I found myself being drawn into the heartbreaking reality of the drama and into an experience that exemplifies a glimpse into horrific real-life situations. Inside this container, people behave in ways that reveal not only who they are but who they have to be to survive, whether that be good or bad.
What would each of us do if faced with these circumstances? When the screams of one of the container’s discarded inhabitants became audible through the walls, I felt sick to my stomach.
This piece is well timed, especially in light of recent events, including the immigration horrors that have arisen from the U.S./Mexico border and as well the decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria that will more than likely render an intense desire for people to escape terror and protect their families as a result. Angier, NC director Avis Hatcher-Puzzo has culled together an incredibly gifted cast that suck us immediately into the drama of this situation.
Beautiful performances from Rimsha Afzal, Darius Shafa, and Cheleen Sugar-Ducksworth, along with Triangle area veteran actors Juan Isler, Lakeisha Coffey, and Holden Hansen, collectively deliver a work so richly layered and believable that we forget that this moment and these people are “performing” in a show. Clare Bayley’s important play deserved the Amnesty Award, and it is this sort of theater that viscerally places people into a moment of “what it’s like” that just might change hearts and minds.
As I left the container and breathed in the fresh night air, there was a new yearning to understand the price that is being paid by human beings around the world who are just seeking to live a life … to walk down a street, take in a meal, or just enjoy a glass of wine after a busy day.
Burning Coal Theatre Company and the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh present THE CONTAINER at 7 and 9 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19, 2 and 4 p.m. Oct. 20 and 21, 7 and 9 p.m. Oct. 24-26, and 2 and 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27603.
TICKETS: All performances are SOLD OUT. Telephone 919-834-4001 to be added to the Wait List.
SHOW: https://burningcoal.org/the-container-by-clare-bayley/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2842128829139794/.
STUDY GUIDE: https://burningcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/Study-Guide-for-The-Container.pdf.
Burning Coal Theatre Company: http://www.burningcoal.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Burning.Coal.Theatre, and https://twitter.com/burningcoaltc.
Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM Raleigh):
http://camraleigh.org/, https://www.facebook.com/camraleigh, and https://twitter.com/camraleigh.
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