HANNAH AND HANNA review The GATE Arts Centre Keppoch Street Cardiff 5 February 2014

When Worlds Collide

Hannah and Hanna is a play written by John Retallack which was first performed in Margate in 2001. Since then it has won an award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been successfully toured nationally and internationally by different companies. This revival is performed by Amy Griggs and Chloe Clarke under the direction of Elise Davison.

Set in Margate in 1999 it is about two ‘young ladies’ from different backgrounds, cultures and countries that discover they have one thing in common, their love of pop music.

Hannah is sixteen years old, she loves pop music and singing karaoke. She has a boyfriend called Bullfrog (Bull for short) who she describes as ‘a one man mental institution’. She is not in love with Margate where she has lived all her life and recently she has come to dislike the Kosovan asylum seekers who have come to live there.

 Hanna is also sixteen and is an asylum seeker from Kosovo. She also loves karaoke, but unlike Hannah she loves Margate.

Both girls are on a collision course with only their age and the love of pop music providing common ground.


Their first meeting was on the seafront at night. Hannah was on the offensive goading Hanna about her identity and eventually saying they (the Kosovans) should all sod off.

Their next encounter didn’t get much better when Hannah was doing her part-time stint at Aldis she has another altercation with Hanna. The miming of the till operations is briefly but superbly done by Griggs and Clarke provides the perfect cameo of a customer who feels short changed by a checkout assistant (we’ve all been there!).


Photo: Tiger's Eye

From then on however their relationship began to blossom largely thanks to their mutual love for pop music. Gradually and surprisingly, the two become friends, Hannah finding the force of friendship eroding any prejudices she had harboured before and Hanna becoming more relaxed in Hannah’s company.

The play goes on to reveal that their new found friendship cannot exist in isolation of everything that was going on around them. Could their friendship last against the forces of prejudice and the rivalry that existed between the locals and the newly arrived Kosovans?

That rivalry is keen with outbreaks of violence between rival gangs and Hannah’s boyfriend Bull at the forefront of dishing it out. Hannah’s brother has become a policeman and finds himself in the middle of the conflict between the rival gangs and Hanna’s brother gets caught up in the ensuing violence.


 Photo: Tiger's Eye

The ability of music to unite was a strong theme throughout the play and songs like Torn, Perfect and Little Girl Blue typically portrayed the couple’s moods and emotions. They were excellently performed. 

The couple’s relationship ebbs and flows on harsh realities and joyous moments until an emotional climax is reached.


Photo: Tiger's Eye

Retallack’s play stands the test of time and was delivered true to form by an insightful direction and wonderful performances by the two protagonists. It is clear that Davison as the director has worked hard with the actors to create something extraordinary. She has said that possibly one of the loveliest things she has heard as a director is people saying 'life should have more of this'…well let’s say it about this production as well!

Griggs was chatty, vibrant and accent led, reminding one of a young Pauline Quirke, but she also has a cheekily attractive face and a voice that would charm the birds from the trees.

Clarke provided the perfect foil bringing a degree of simplicity, tolerance and humility to counter her English counterpart’s ‘in your face’ approach and her physical presence and singing ability also featured high on her list of qualities.

The all-important attributes of wit, timing and facial expressions were played out to perfection by both. Their narratives were so convincing that you could, for example, hear the waves lapping against the sea wall and the rain lashing into Hanna’s face. Some other visions aroused later in the play were more powerful and emotive.

Tracey Emin, who hails from Margate, believes that there should be something revelatory about art in that it should be totally creative and open doors for new thoughts and experiences. This performance dramatically represented these beliefs.  It was, in its own way, not just a play but a work of art.

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