Warehouse of Dreams
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When it comes to the Middle East, questions about the West’s moral compass are nothing new. So it’s to playwright Chuck Anderson’s credit that he’s come at this well-trodden issue from a new perspective.
‘Warehouse of Dreams’ is a tightly written exploration of the troubling world of refugee camps. Anderson asks complex questions about the usefulness of humanitarian work, and is bold enough not to spoon-feed us answers. He offers up a provocative piece of philosophy, but as a play it’s unsatisfactory. To navigate this tricky moral territory Anderson simplifies his characters into polemical mouthpieces, making it hard for us to care about them or their plight.
World-weary UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) senior field officer Moriarty (a ruggedly convincing Jamie Thompson) has years of experience setting up camps. These are compromised societies run by corrupt refugees, and we’re quickly made to see what their – and increasingly Moriarty’s – wheeling and dealing costs. But then, as he argues to his fresh-faced, foppishly naïve communications officer, James Stanton (played by a suitably irritating Chris Clynes), sometimes compassion needs to take a back seat when you’re setting up a new camp.
Stanton represents the new face of the UNHCR: all corporate speak and ‘the children are the future’. But it’s Moriarty who really gets stuff done. He might be a ‘dinosaur’, as his regional director calls him, but as we listen to his eloquent arguments it’s clear Anderson is siding with the old guard here.
The pace of Dan Phillips’s solid production is a little plodding, but the performances are strong. Balqis Duvall is particularly compelling as a precocious and vulnerable 14-year-old refugee, bringing some much-needed heart to Anderson’s worthy but emotionally cool arguments.