To flee a part of the world you deemed to be home to escape the atrocities that currently shroud it must be an incredibly fearful reality. To then seek refuge in a foreign land that will greet you with an array of questions, but could result in your survival brings with it a rollercoaster of emotion. Tim Cowbury’s The Claim explores this incredibly current topic, humanising an issue that more often than not is vilified within the press.
Cowbury crafts an intimate world occupied by three protagonists pursuing what they believe to be ‘right’. Serge, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo dreams of new beginnings, a life free of violent surroundings. A, Serge’s interpreter concerns himself with establishing an easy going environment, an environment contradictory to the unforgiving nature of Serge’s upcoming interview. B, the consummate professional is driven by a need to fulfil her job role, unlike her colleague and partner, she’s there purely to evaluate whether Serge’s back story is plausible or not. Cowbury plays with the concept of miscommunication and language barriers, and this is intriguing to watch and listen to. Serge’s interpreter actively re-phrases his sentences to match Serge’s native tongue, this is an endearing quality and acts as a reminder as to how the slightest of mistakes when translating can bring new meaning. The duo overlap, talking over one another, further adding humour and reinforcing the nature of miscommunication.
Ncuti Gatwa’s Serge is hopeful, he’s a dreamer solely seeking a quiet life, his enthusiasm a beacon of the evening. Nick Blakeley’s interpreter is friendly, he completely distracts the audience from the heavy nature of the situation Serge finds himself in, contributing a human quality. Yusra Warsama is bold, she’s a stark reminder of the rules and regulations the immigration department must follow to determine an asylum seekers future. The show’s crux lies within Serge’s interrogation and interactions with the two colleagues. The need to make A and B appear more human by including aspects of their personal life takes away from the matter at hand.
Joshua Pharo’s striking lighting design equips the show with its identity. Rectangular columns of bright light frame the stage, reinforcing a claustrophobic world now established, a prison. Mark Maughan directs a light hearted production, however the evening commands a weight due to its subject matter. Serge’s interrogation determines the outcome of his stay, this is significant and doesn’t reach the level of confusion and fear that it should. The Claim is an admirable play, an installation with recordings of those who have seeked asylum are available to listen to in the foyer, these are optional, however should be an essential as they no doubt educate the audience with a layer of understanding that would enhance their experience of The Claim. 3/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Claim is currently showing until Friday 26th January at the Shoreditch Town Hall. To find out more about the production, visit here…