Review: Borderland; Public Burning Theatre

Borderland, coloured by realism, was a gauge for the anxieties of post-riot Burnley.
Lucky Sanghera and Burnleys Chloe McLaughlin in Borderland. (s)Lucky Sanghera and Burnleys Chloe McLaughlin in Borderland. (s)
Lucky Sanghera and Burnleys Chloe McLaughlin in Borderland. (s)

Public Burning Theatre presented a provocative love story thawing with tenderness and hardening with fear.

Staged on Monday at Burnley Youth Theatre, it tells of the love between Aminah, of Pakistani origin, and Kayla, a white girl, of Oldham.Writer James Harker has created solid characters whose intricacy blurs the dichotomy between them.

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Actresses Lucky Sanghera and Burnley’s Chloe McLaughlin ably weaved together threads of identity, embroidering the characters with idiosyncrasies and paradoxes: Aminah, an assertive Disney-fan, caged by rules; Kayla, a sensitive boxer, shielded by cockiness.

The show captured the developing relationship terrifically. Meandering like a river: the rush of first love; the twists and turns; the bursting of the banks.

The chemistry between the actors fizzed; and the tension was rife. The relationship was believable and relatable: love punctuated by spasms of fear, guilt and shame.

Director Danielle McIlven teased out the all-pervasiveness of the attitudes of the time, which shaped the tinier rhythms of life, in the subtler dimensions of the play.

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Punctuated effectively in pace by swift scene changes, the play ran like a film-reel wheeling through time and zooming in on definitive snapshots of youth. This mirrored both the idea of homosexuality as a phase and the way cultural togetherness existed in pockets of school experience.

The simplicity and adaptability of the staging gave the characters room to breathe and monopolise the show. After the girls’ first kiss, the packing up of props reflected their disappearance back into life’s routines, hiding their romance at school.

Filled with biting honesty, the play recognised the power of love to bathe deep cuts and prevent scarring while creating a greater sting.