THE ROPE IN YOUR HANDS
‘Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?’ the song asks, and Siobhan O’Loughlin tells us, in the words of 13 people who saw the city go under water after Hurricane Katrina and emerge a wreck.
This is a tour de force by one woman and a chair. 13 accents and 13 postures bring us the jazz man distractedly standing throwing seeds; the hospital administrator sitting to attention on her seat; the demolition expert; the grandfather who has seen it all; and the 7-year-old girl curling up for a comfy space.
“There was water coming down Canal Street, and water doesn’t come down Canal Street” says one woman when the levies broke, with the shock and disbelief we might share if a flood advanced down the Royal Mile. “New Orleans was so colourful ” says another, but months under mud and water have taken that colour away.
‘Colour’ is what defines Hurricane Katrina in many minds. The racism that was exposed by the floods left a deposit for all to see. Black Americans waved for help for days from their roof-tops and the streets were thick with armed police not doctors.
The message of the play is that the government had a rope in its hands — but it thought twice before throwing it.