Igor Memic’s thoughtful and sensitively written play may initially start off as a simple love story but builds into something much deeper and darker to mesmerising effect.

(c)Marc Brenner

Having won the 2020 Papatango New Writing Prize, Igor Memic’s Old Bridge is now getting a digital run following from a live audience run at the Bush Theatre and it is a thoroughly deserved additional run to allow more people to see this heartbreaking and powerful play.

Set in Mostar, Yugoslavia, audiences is taken through the story of Mili and Mina’s relationship from their first meeting right through to the horror of the Bosnian War that destroyed so many people’s lives between 1992-1995. Alongside them are their friends Sasha and Leila both of whom also go on unexpected journeys. But this play on a deeper level shows the devastating impact that war has on those who manage to survive and what it takes to survive.

While initially Memic’s play has a Romeo and Juliet feel about it, enhanced by Susan Lawson-Reynolds as Emina who narrates the story with a truly vivid and hypnotic images, this is a play that really is slow burner but changes the tone of the play effortlessly as the story unfolds to something different and unexpected. The contrast from at the beginning, with all the characters are so carefree to see how they don’t realise that their lives are all changing – even with little details such as being unable to buy coffee escaping them by – Memic then builds up that intensity and fear that they experience beautifully.

On occasion, the writing could use some tightening up and feel more focused in the first act because it comes across as too easy going and you can’t help but wonder exactly what direction the story is going to take. In contrast the second act is certainly stronger as the terror that the four friends feel creates an almost oppressive atmosphere, enhanced by by Aideen Malone’s chillingly effective lighting design and by Max Pappenheim’s vivid sound design that wraps itself around you – even through the screen.

Directed by Selma Dimitrijevic, this production might appear simple on the surface in terms of the way in which it has been staged but it is really fluid and delivers plenty of heart and emotion to keep the audience thoroughly engaged.

The performances from the cast all feel very natural and unforced – yet at the same time each of them beautifully develop their characters as the impact of the war begins to affect them in different ways. Many of the most affecting moments that emerge are through simply seeing how the war impacts them – particularly in the wake of tragedy, leading to one of the most heartbreaking moments in the play.

As a production this was well worth catching – the emotional impact of the play really does make a devastating impact on the audience – while Igor Memic’s Old Bridge was a worthy winner of the 2020 Papatango New Writing Prize.

By Emma Clarendon

Old Bridge is available to watch until the 4th December. To find out more on how to watch visit: https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/old-bridge-online/

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐