By: Cathryn Macey, TRP Reviewer
Home. Is it where you’re born? Or, if you now live in another country, is it there instead? What if you are constantly homesick but when you go home, quickly sick of home? These are the universally relatable questions emerging playwright and performer, Cristina Varga, poses in her powerful one woman play, Close Enough.
An unashamedly proud fan of Shakira, 90’s R n’ B and McDonald’s, Cristina takes you on her journey of self-discovery which begins the moment you take your seat. Immediately we are drawn to this young (ish) performer as she stands proudly in the centre of the Lab’s stage confidently making eye contact with the crowd. From Romania, Cristina is here to explain why she decided to ditch her relatively content life in Eastern Europe (“I had a good job, a boyfriend… I was happy”) and forge a new life for herself in the UK. Her granny is not pleased, and tells her she should be home “making babies” but English graduate Varga hops on a plane anyway after her supportive Father sells his car to make her dreams possible.
This is the story about what happens when she lands and the initial elation of travel and adventure wares off. It starts in a light-hearted manner; like a comedy sketch about the cultural differences between Romania and England. Her wry observations make the audience knowingly laugh about the situations she finds herself in. The first obstacles she faces are explored unusually through the medium of a song/rap called “Is this conversation mandatory?”. Cristina can sing and although the music and lyrics are hilarious, they do hit upon the more serious nature of what Varga herself refers to as “English anxiety”; this being the sheer terror she feels whenever a Plymothian asks a question she is not expecting. How can she possibly respond to something she hasn’t rehearsed beforehand? It is at this early point in the performance that we begin to learn how daunting and downright terrifying life can be if you’re not used to speaking the local language.
The fear of messing up and embarrassing herself in a new country dominates a majority of the performance. Singing and dancing energetically through her account of life as an immigrant, this one woman show asks its audience serious questions in a playful way. It makes you reflect on experiences you may have had of living abroad (or even just past Exeter!) but also makes you wonder what you can do in the future to help people in a similar situation to Varga.
You can’t help but fall in love with Cristina. From her awkward dance moves to her tongue in cheek songs about the absurdity of British Culture, she keeps the audience in the palm of her hand from start to finish. Not afraid to probe more deeply into the loneliness and regret she sometimes experiences, Close Enough exposes the challenges that come with stepping out of your comfort zone and not just playing it safe.
An unforgettable and beautiful play, this is a must see.
Close Enough is on in The Lab from 13 – 14 April and tickets are just £7!