Review: Sanctuary

The Lincoln Company
Sanctuary, theSpace on Niddry St, Edinburgh, until August 29th
4 Stars (4 / 5)

Sanctuary, written and performed by Susanne Sulby, is an ambitious project. Travelling between a suburban living room in the United States and any number of foreign conflict zones, Sulby tackles three very different characters and the various ways war affects them.

Most relatable is the US mother who watches world events unfold on her TV screen and asks herself what she can do to help. She decides to send care packages to troops overseas. What begins as a kindness develops into a bizarre relay of messages wherein the soldier thanks her for sending candy for the local children his country are dropping bombs on. All the men over there have lost close friends. He goes on to say, ‘No one knows their job better than they do’ – sounds like more of a threat than the assurance it’s supposed to be.

The anchor-woman reporting from Afghanistan, Africa, Bosnia, becomes increasingly unstable as the atrocities mount up. The fact she can’t keep track of who’s the latest friend or foe is reminiscent of recent events which found our enemies using weaponry supplied by our own governments, and war veterans shooting each other on home soil. So far, so ludicrous.

But it’s the mother kept in a prison cell that shows us the heartbreak it all boils down to. In one powerful scene, she describes the breakdown of community; friends, neighbours and colleagues turn on one another, families ripped apart in night raids, women and children marched away to a backdrop of rattling gunfire as their men are murdered.

Sulby gives us a brave, understated performance in a play which highlights the contradiction between mankind’s seemingly endless drive to war, and the human realities that connect us all: love, children, and our desire to do good.