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Issue 1782 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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A Balkan Romeo and Juliet story in Old Bridge

A bold and heart-breaking exploration of love and loss in the midst of a war-torn city

Dino Kelly Mili In Old Bridge At The Bush Theatre  Photo By Marc Brenner 162


in Issue 1782


Old Bridge

★ ★ ★ ★
Bush Theatre
Until 20th November, 2021
£15 (Students)

Old Bridge won playwright Igor Memic the 2020 Papatango New Writing Prize, and rightfully so. Set amidst the burgeoning Bosnian war in the early 90s in the writers' hometown of Mostar in former Yugoslavia, the play follows the story of two youngsters, Mina (Saffron Coombar), a Bosnian Muslim, and a Mili (Dino Kelly), a half-Croat catholic, who get caught in the growing turmoil of the war.  

The play begins in 1988, just before the war, with Mina and Mili first meeting each other and falling in love. And flash-forward to 1992 when as war commences, life for them (and all around) becomes simply about survival as Yugoslavia tears itself apart. The play provides little detail on the specifics of the war, and this in a way gives the story a certain fluidity; The story of Mina and Mili could be that of any of the numerous innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of conflicts around the world.  

Saffron Coomber Mina In Old Bridge At The Bush Theatre  Photo By Marc Brenner46 Photo: Marc Brenner
Saffron Coomber (Mina) in 'Old Bridge' at the Bush Theatre

The acting in the play by all the actors was impressive. The characters were really well etched out and each personality brought something new to the group dynamic; from the sarcastic Leila (Rosie Gray) and goofy Sasha (Emilio Iannucci) to the sweet, teasing romantic leads Mina and Mili, as well as the older Mina (Susan Lawson-Reynolds), who retrospectively narrates the story of her youth. There are equal moments of humour and tragedy that keep the audience engaged, and the writing and delivery are both on point. The set utilises minimalistic platforms at various heights to symbolise the titular ‘Old Bridge’ across the Neretva River. This lack of formal set and props allows us to focus more on the symbolism of the play and the dialogue between characters. 

The only flaw, in my opinion, was the heavy emphasis on narration and exposition in the second half of the play. Whilst Lawson-Reynolds (as older Mina) does a beautiful job of delivering this narration, the flaw in the writing began to show itself when the narration began to hinder the flow of the story. The overreliance on monologues slowed the pace of the story, especially at key moments where there was so much happening. 

Nonetheless, this was a fantastic play and I highly recommend heading the Bush Theatre before the 20th November to catch a showing. 

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