What's the Worst That Could Happen? Hiding Heidi at Etcetera Theatre, NW1
Fast-forward into a dystopian, post-Brexit world in Stoke-on-Trent and we have our setting for Ian Dixon Potter’s latest fast-paced script, Hiding Heidi (A Tale of Love and Hate in Stoke on Trent).
The title character, Heidi (Siobhan Ward) is a nurse from Lichtenstein, living in the UK who has lost her job in a hospital due to her status as a “European” in a post-Brexit Britain. She ends up working and living illegally with a mother and son, Dorothy (Maxine Howard) and Ralph (Richard de Lisle) – as a carer for the elderly Dorothy – in Stoke-on-Trent where 70% of the population voted Leave.
The extremity of the situation in the country is clear from the start when Dorothy and Ralph are unable to find a legal carer, because many of the Europeans who were in these positions have been sent away. The disparity of opinion between Ralph and his mother (a Leaver and Remainer respectively) provides interesting points of discussion and humour in the script.
I especially enjoyed the interspersing of the domestic tale of the trio and the love story which unfolds, with the haunting and fearsome presence of the Immigration Office, as they stalked out illegal inhabitants.
Heidi hides - literally -in a small covered cavern in the house whenever the door goes and there is some comic farce around this, including people overhearing things they’re not meant to – a nod to comedies from Shakespeare to Fawlty Towers.
However, behind this is a less humorous tale where neighbours inform the Immigration Office on the family, even one of Dorothy’s supposed friends and it all culminates in a stake-out. This side of the play is where I had to view it as a dystopian tale and a warning rather than a realistic look at the future.
With notes of Orwell’s novels (a very post-modern prop is a copy of one placed on a table) and Anne Frank’s very real Diary and demise at the hands of the Nazis, Ian Dixon-Potter has written about an extreme worst-case-scenario in a cultural language we all understand and recognise.
In my opinion, Ralph’s extreme politicising and angry views gave him less-appeal as a hero in a time when we are already fed up of hearing people talk about the horrors of Brexit on the news. In fact, he became almost equally as displeasing as some of the idiotic right-wing, pro-Brexit “get rid of all foreigners” types that we saw in the older generations in the play.
The actors all played their roles well – particularly Maxine Howard as Rosemary whose comic timing was spot-on. I laughed along at the physical and verbal comedy throughout the piece and as usual Ian Dixon-Potter’s script was as snappy and witty as it was introspective.
I would recommend this play as I would any piece of art that looked at varying outcomes of our near future with such humour and an interesting storyline. If you’re fed up with Brexit-chat, pretend it’s a piece on deporting Mexicans in the US – as it very much could be.
Whatever the weather, we can always count on the arts to keep our political decisions magnified and in-check.
As a writer and a lover of art, I may fall down here – I prefer to keep my catastrophizing and depression in the art I see and write and believe that in reality everything will work out all right. Fingers crossed.
Hiding Heidi (A Tale of Love and Hate in Stoke on Trent), playing at the Etcetera Theatre, Camden until the 3rd of December. Tickets here.