Timberlake Wertenbaker's worthy but wordy and over-earnest new drama
Credible Witness is highly topical. It goes behind the headlines to
gather together a group of asylum seekers at a UK detention centre and
observe their very different reasons for being there.
Petra Karagy, a Macedonian woman, is furiously searching for her long-lost
son, Alexander, who disappeared to England three years earlier; Shivan
Rajagopal is a Sri Lankan doctor; Aziz is in flight from civil war in
Algeria; Ameena is a Somalian refugee who was brutally raped and tortured.
Marshalling their conflicting claims to the right to asylum is immigration
officer Simon Le Britten (a name that is one of the play's many
painstakingly obvious notes of symbolism), who has himself found a kind of
asylum in this job after being made redundant from the Post Office, where he
was a middle manager.
One's credulity is frequently stretched by this gathering and the clumsy
conflicts that the playwright provides for them. Wertenbaker's characters
are types and viewpoints, not living, breathing creations.
But Sacha Wares provides a frequently arresting production, on a
stunning maze-like design by Es Devlin, and it is acted with a fierce
kind of commitment by a large cast (there are 11 in total) that includes the
wonderful American actress Olympia Dukakis as Petra. She's the
wonderfully sympathetic centre - passionate yet controlled - of this
sometimes too dispassionate, rambling drama.