Borders by Henry Naylor
- Eddie Harrison
- 10 August 2017
A refugee crosses paths with a war photographer
Writer and producer Henry Naylor had a considerable pedigree as a comedy-writer for television even before his trilogy of plays on the war on terror (The Collector, Echoes and Angel). His satire has become increasingly hard as his subjects have become more serious. His latest play, Borders, reflects the split in his work; as a satire of how the media trivialise the effects of global warfare, it's bluntly obvious. But Naylor's research into the plight of Syrian refugees is more powerfully written, and this aspect of Borders soars.
Borders is a two-hander; Avital Lvova plays an unnamed graffiti-artist who is using her art to protest the Assad regime in Syria. Her story is told in parallel, with only one point in common, with that of a western photo-journalist Sebastian Nightingale, played by Graham O'Mara. Frustrated by his inability to sell pictures, Nightingale takes a chance assignment to photograph a pre-9/11 Osama Bin Laden, which launches a wasteful career photographing pop stars.
Directed by Michael Cabot, Borders is well-performed, particularly by Lvova, who deservedly got a standing ovation for her intense evocation of a woman increasingly trapped by circumstances. But the Nightingale section of the play, accusing the media of not bothering to cover human tragedies when celebrity tittle-tattle is available, is rather ham-fisted and one-note. An account of a party to celebrate Nightingale's photography describes the attendance of everyone from Bono to the Cheeky Girls; such catch-all details are unpersuasive.
The irony is that Borders does the difficult things well. Its satire of GMTV and Sport Aid needed a lighter touch, but ultimately doesn't take away from the raw power of the Syrian story, and the meaning created by the juxtaposition. In the fake news era, journalism seems to be coming back into fashion; Naylor's play argues strongly why real journalism is still needed.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 28 Aug, (not 16), 4.30pm, £11.50–£12.50 (£10.50–£11.50).