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The Lottery Ticket

at Traverse Theatre

* * * - -

Nebli Basani shines in this funny and enlightening piece exploring the realities of asylum and EU migration.

Image of The Lottery Ticket

The Lottery Ticket’s central theme is not instantly clear from its title. Despite this ambiguity, as the plot begins to unfold it soon becomes evident that this is a play for the migrant era. We meet Salih (Nebli Basani), a highly-educated Kurdish unofficial asylum seeker and Jacek (Steven Duffy), who is desperately trying to find enough work in Scotland to support his poverty-stricken family back in Poland. Through them we see and hear of the humanity and hardship woven into the stories of migrants all over Scotland and beyond.

Donna Franceschild’s script and direction goes a long way to explain the complexity of asylum, while simultaneously entertaining the audience throughout with witty dialogue and physical comedy. The shade to this light comes in the form of Rhona (Helen Mallon), a Scottish woman who finds the men sheltering in her bin shed. Her attitudes and prejudices – despite fleeting moments of open-mindedness – represent the widespread ignorance and underlying xenophobia in the UK. The Lottery Ticket seeks to challenge those generic and incorrect assumptions.

Nebli Basani’s performance is particularly thoughtful – it is real, moving, heartbreaking and funny. On several occasions he addresses the audience directly and adeptly via monologues. As we gradually uncover the background and reason for his being here in front of us, we find a good, optimistic and faith-filled character caught up in political persecution. Steven Duffy makes for a warm comedic partner. Contrasting with his “it can’t be done” mantra, Jacek displays equal quantities of kindness, loyalty and selflessness as Salih.

The cast is strong and believable and the story arc is interesting, however there are a few times where the piece loses pace and becomes momentarily tedious. It’s also all fairly predictable, but is well executed nonetheless. Overall, it is a very entertaining plat that has something important to say about societal attitudes.

The Lottery Ticket may be preaching to the converted in the form of relatively liberal, enlightened Traverse audiences, yet it’s an important and timely message, delivered in a non-preachy way.