How Not To Drown, a short review.

On the 11th, I attended the last showing of How Not To Drown at the Theatre Royal Stratford East and I immediately regretted not going sooner. How Not To Drown is a whirlwind adventure sending you on the trials and terrors of a young Albanian boy making his way to England and facing the foster care system. This story belongs to Dritan Kastrati and his heart is poured on stage as he plays himself within the incredible ensemble cast. The moment I first heard an Albanian word spoken by a heavy Scottish accent I felt hope towards the future of Albanian culture and art being represented and explored in the english theatre landscape.

The production itself was a refreshing look into the work of ThickSkin company with pleasingly interesting physicality moments from the ensemble and modern production elements including soundscapes, strobe lighting and conceptual set design. The ensemble successfully takes us on a journey through Dritan’s life, inviting us into intimate scenes of distress and fear then transforming the dynamics through comedic characterisations from Dritan’s perspective as he grows during the play. Having my parents either side me I felt entranced in a story that felt so personal toward the reality of Kosovan and Albanian asylum seekers, that very early on moved me to tears. Dritan’s experience of the Foster care system was met with delicacy and satirical humour showing the struggles of a non english speaking child and how a feisty young Dritan tackles them.

After the show I got the opportunity to ask Dritan how?, how are you able to give yourself and your story every night? He plainly looked at Daniel his cast mate and said “these guys” and it was clear. The bond onstage and off. In the performance the ensemble aspect allowed each actor to play Dritan at one stage, each multi rolling various family members, Mafia and foster carers. They each held the weight of this story and helped Dritan tell it. The evening was a wonder and as the lights came up at the end of the casts final bow, the real life Riki from the story applauded with the rest of us concluding the run of How Not To Drown here in London.

How Not To Drown, By Nicola McCartney and Dritan Kastrati

Directed by Neil Bettles

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