How Not to Drown is Dritan Kastrati’s story. As a 11 year-old child, he was sent to Britain. Escaping from the Kosovan war, the journey was traumatic, and the impact of his father’s decision felt beyond the journey.
Sending your son on this journey could be perceived as the best choice. The hope of a better life. But in How Not to Drown the immediate and tangible dangers are seen along with the cultural impact. That believing arriving in Britain would make everything ok is far from the reality.
Dritan’s story makes you question our realities. That a father believed the best option for his child was to use people smugglers to pursue a better life in the UK. That an 11 year-old Kosovan-Albanian refugee has survived the realities of the UK social system.
The piece is beautifully performed. Choreographed to explore the danger of the journey, each of the five performers interchange roles to make a fluid presentation. Reinforcing that this could be anyone’s fate.
A simple tilted, rotating stage reinforces the changing environment. From the journey itself to living in different countries and cultures. Whilst the staging and choreography of the journey across the sea is extraordinarily beautiful in its harsh reality, the reality of seeking asylum in the UK is upsettingly harsh.
As Dritan enters the social services system rather than being allowed to stay with his brother, so the inevitable failings of an under-resourced system are exposed. Eventually a good family is found and a teacher who offers a purpose to succeed.
When Dritan eventually returns to his parents, there is another uncomfortable reality. Caught between two countries, two cultures, Dritan is not a child of neither. Having found a way to be accepted in the UK means he had relinquished some of his former self. Unknowingly, unintentionally, a nomad.
How Not to Drown is a moving and emotional adaptation of Dritan’s life by Nicola McCarthy. A true ensemble enabling a collaborative presentation of the complexities not only of the physical turmoil but the emotional impact of seeking asylum.
The impact of How Not to Drown doesn’t diminish with time. Challenging the perception of those who pursue a better life in the UK. This is one person’s extraordinary story.
How Not to Drown is at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. You can see the production until Sunday 25th August at various times.
Disclosure: This review is part of media accreditation for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. All views and opinions contained are my own.