Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland is set in Margate, Calais and Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo.
Part 1 is set in 1999, Part 2 in 2015.
We are rehearsing at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where the play will open on Thursday October 4th before a tour of some of the coastal towns.
This is the plot taken from the publicity pack:
Summer 1999. Margate’s beaches are packed with day-trippers…and its hotels filled with Kosovan asylum seekers – including Hanna (Celia Meiras), a survivor of Europe’s most recent genocide. Hannah (Lisa Payne) is from Margate and bored with life in the rundown seaside town - hanging out with her boyfriend Bull and his mates. The only things the two sixteen year olds have in common are their names and their love of singing along to their favourite pop songs…
Sixteen years later, Hanna returns to Margate - this time in search of a Syrian girl she
befriended in Kosovo and who may have succeeded in getting across the Channel. The Calais ‘Jungle’ is close and attempts by its residents to reach England fill the local media. Hanna hopes her young friend will be welcome in Margate, but although the town has changed, alongside the coffee bars and vintage shops, there is still an undercurrent of hostility towards the migrants and refugees who are so desperate to enter the UK.
Just as in 1999, when Hanna’s arrival turned Hannah’s life upside down, so her return takes the friends on a journey which Hannah from Margate would not have thought possible.
The first reading is very good because Celia and Lisa have done so many public readings of it already – and I don’t cringe or get that uncomfortable hot feeling as I listen to it. It feels right for the first time.
Celia Meiras was the original Kosovan Hanna in 2001 and it is wonderful to have her back. Lisa Payne is Margate born and bred and has done numerous readings of the play in the last 2 years. The two of them together are a force.
The conceit of the play is that the women are now in the mid-thirties and re-enact their meetings when they were 16 and when they were 32. The new play finishes with an epilogue from the present day.
At the reading, it’s Part 2 I’m interested in because that’s the new play. I’ve written it and re-written it half-a-dozen times since Jan Ryan commissioned it in 2016. I’ve changed the plot, the protagonist, the locations and the nature of the two leading characters.
Part 2s tend to get written when a film or play is a success. This is true of Hannah and Hanna in a modest way – it toured a lot in the UK from 2001 to 2004 and was translated into a number of languages. I’ve directed it in French and even seen its 250th performance in Swedish. But that was 15 years ago.
Jan Ryan, the producer, suggested I update the story of Hannah and Hanna to 2015 when the 16 year old girls are 32-year old woman, one living in Pristina, Kosovo, the other in Margate. What has happened to them in the meantime? It’s taken a long time to work out the answer to that question but the only thing that really matters is what happens to these two women now.
Their worlds have changed so much: Kosovo achieved Independence in 2008 and Margate has become chic, much-visited and so desirable that it has had a huge influx of ‘DFLs’ -- local slang for those Down From London.
And Hannah and Hanna have changed so much. I find that they have even more conflict than they did in 2000 – by 2015, the gloves are off.
How can I find reconciliation between Hannah and Hanna?
I write at the end of the first week of rehearsals – Adele’s HULLO and Pink’s FUCKING PERFECT are new songs in Part 2. We ran Part 1 on Friday night. We start on Part 2 tomorrow. I can’t wait.