Pizza Shop Heroes @ Summerhall
Fierce, bold, defiant – Pizza Shop Heroes puts refugee voice centre stage in this luminous production from Phosphoros Theatre
Tewodros, Goitom, Emirjon and Syed work in the local pizza shop. The one thing they all have in common? In real life all of them arrived in the UK as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children; this show is their reclamation of this story.
Against the backdrop of the pizza shop, we are transported from scenes of joking around answering phones and rolling dough, to stories of travelling for days across mountains, oceans and under the wheels of lorries – starving, freezing, alone. These are all true stories, now told exactly as the men themselves want to tell them.
The show is well structured and staged, being broken into marked ‘chapters’ which works well to show the development of the characters as they go through their journeys, as well as clearly signalling that they now have control over their own narratives.
The show successfully strikes a delicate balance between funny and serious, between personal and political. Hilariously astute observations about British culture, such as cultural aversion to hugging and eye contact, make UK audiences reflect on how strange the country seems from the point of view of those living here for the first time. The touching depiction of fatherhood, as well as the friendship portrayed between the characters, creates a picture of wholesome, non-toxic masculinity: a much-needed antidote to hateful headlines in the current political climate.
At one point the issue of female refugees is touched on, and the subject is brought to a close with: “Would you send girls on that journey alone”? A good question, and it will be interesting to see if in future there will an opportunity for female refugees to speak out and tell their own story too. With a brand new youth drama project launching in September 2019, as well as ongoing workshops across the UK, it seems that Phosphoros Theatre is going from strength to strength – it will be exciting to see what they do next.
“We are heroes because we have to be,” they say. This is a resilient, defiant and utterly real reclamation of voices by a group so often ignored, misunderstood or spoken for.
Pizza Shop Heroes, Summerhall, until 11 Aug, 5.40pm, £9-12