Review: Dreams Die Hard – story-telling at its brilliant best

This is story-telling at its brilliant best. Personal, incisive, at times funny, yet also sad and highly thought-provoking. Dreams Die Hard also contains the best-ever explanation of Brexit courtesy of the good old British fry-up.

A one-woman show, written and performed by Rachel Karafistan (whose grandfather Mehmet Karafistan was from Yeşilırmak, Cyprus) with direction and original music by Kuba Pierzchalski, the play made its UK premiere at an intimate theatre – the Tristan Bates Actors Centre – in Covent Garden in April. The story revolves around an unplanned pregnancy, a Turkish Cypriot lover, a redheaded US soldier and a monkey.

When Rachel found her paternal grandmother Olive’s diary from 1945 (the year her father was born), it blew apart everything she thought she knew about her grandparents. A 20-year gestation period followed before Rachel felt she could dramatize her relatives’ journey and struggles, poignantly capturing our universal challenges.

The play starts with Rachel sharing the findings of her DNA test, raising questions of identity; who we think we are and where we came from. We then meet Olive in all her vulnerability, humour and eloquence. Rachel also morphs into Churchill, then Red, the American GI, her grandfather Sydney, great-grandfather Reuben, and Mehmet Karafistan, who enters to Dillirga–  Cyprus’ unofficial anthem.

Rachel’s incredible performance is aided by the beautifully constructed labyrinth-like set (designed by Kuba), moving from war-torn London, to Liverpool, and then Cyprus, a seamless journey touching on the NHS, the welfare state, and Brexit.

The story ends with Olive’s words: “I must have a very strong streak of foreign blood in me because I’ve never in my life felt any love for my country”, played out to cine-reel footage of Rachel’s family and not a dry eye in the house.

Rachel recently won an award for her performance at the prestigious 32nd International Theatre Festival in Lomza, Poland. If you get a chance to see this play (it’s also playing at the Albany Theatre, Coventry on 28 and 29 June), do!