The Interpreter, Home is a play about cultural identity and the dangers of treating mental health problems too clinically.
Nalin (Jade Greyul), a student, takes a job for interpreting for a patient in a mental health institution. The patient, Hevi (Hilly Barber), is a Kurdish refugee and hasn’t spoken her language for twenty years, partly due to the fact she has never before been given an interpreter who speaks her language.
The story itself is fascinating and shocking. Writer Hekate Papadaki, who has experience of working with mental health institutions, paints a rather depressing picture of how patients are treated (though it is not made clear just how much is based on real events).
Hilly Barber is very convincing as Hevi. Despite saying only one or two words, she manages to convey heartbreaking emotion. Laura Lindsay also gives a good performance as the scarily bureaucratic Nurse Begg.
While Hevi’s situation is thought provoking and sensitively illustrated, the subplot involving Nalin’s identity crisis as a Kurdish girl who has lost touch with her roots, is disappointingly weak. Her visit to a Kurdish Cultural centre to find out more about Hevi enters the realm of comedy and sits strangely with the rest of the play.
The end of the play is excellent with an extremely moving performance from the two main actors. However, despite its provocative premise, The Interpreter, Home remains inconsistent.