British playwright Abi Morgan has always sought to strike a connection between the political and the personal — and her influences come from the left. She reveres the thorny lack of compromise shown over the years by a radical filmmaker like Ken Loach, and she makes no apologies about injecting unabashed polemic into her own work. But she is also so good at her craft that producers were ready to entrust her with the screenplay for The Iron Lady, a portrait of a major political figure, Margaret Thatcher, that she and her family hated.
Morgan is, in brief, a writer worthy of attention, and Ottawa’s Third Wall Academy deserves our warmest thanks for introducing Fringe audiences to Fugee, a lacerating account of how the system is failing refugee children. In her 2008 script, Morgan was zeroing in on the British situation, but with its sense of emotional horror and hopelessness, the play’s implications occupy a wider canvas.
The central character, Kojo, is a child from the Ivory Coast, an innocent whose once idyllic existence was brutally changed forever on his 11th birthday. When he first meet him, he has seemingly made it to safety and a new life. But he has no English and no passport, and his age is in question. Even within the security of a children’s refugee centre, the system is about to start tearing him apart — be it through latent prejudice, outright hostility, or bureaucratic indifference. And we keep being pulled back to the play’s first horrific image — of Kojo fatally knifing another youth on the street. And we keep asking why that tragedy happened.