Refugee Boy memorably explores the territories of home, family and belonging
Refugee Boy arrives on stage with a whole lot of baggage.
Benjamin Zephaniah's novel about the passage of a 14-year-old Ethiopian-Eritrean boy through the care system is already a teaching aid in schools to explore geography, citizenship and literacy.
It's also being supported at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with a series of events to celebrate diversity, dispel myths and bring people together.
Lemn Sissay's adaptation of the text sidesteps these issues and places a very human story about home, family and belonging at its heart.
Central to this is Fisayo Akinade's performance as Alem, "a rebel with a cheese knife," whose father leaves him in a strange grey country to save him from the brutality of civil war.
This one-acter follows him as he tries to weave his way through children's homes, court hearings and foster care with a combination of sweetness, studiousness and vulnerability.
More at ease with Charles Dickens than with street talk - "Bad means good?" he asks his care home friend Mustapha (Dwayne Scantlebury) - he also has a sense of hope that transcends the upheavals of his homeland.
The violence he's experienced is mainly told through nightmare flashbacks, with former associates turning up at the family home and threatening them with guns unless they leave their country.
The expectations of his experiences are also humorously exploited, with his claims to have seen "blood run in rivers by the kerbside" being a play on his beloved Dickens.
It's a rounded portrayal and back-story that's afforded almost equal status for other characters. Mustapha's comic obsession with cars - "AhhhhSTRA!" is given a heartbreaking twist when he reveals he's trying to identify the vehicle in which his father departed.
The initial reluctance of Ruth (Rachel Caffrey) to accept Alem as her foster brother is sympathetically accounted for by her attempts to bond and then painfully separate with a succession of incomers.
Emma Williams's stage design for the most part successfully switches the action from conflicted African border zones to London courtrooms and all points in between. A jumble of battered suitcases create stairs against the derelict exterior of a house whose windows open onto bus stops or shop fronts with the help of Mic Pool's grainy projections.
A constant reminder of the transitory nature of refugees, the set is nonetheless the source of initial confusion over where the action is taking place.
This could almost be a statement on Alem's perplexed sense of belonging, one that he resolves through a one-world outlook based on repeated references to stars which become a point of guidance and solace for a teenager far from home.