Ncuti Gatwa in The Claim

Ncuti Gatwa in The Claim

Image by courtesy of Paul Samuel White

The Claim is a play about an interview that will affect the rest of your life. It could even lead to your death.

“If they don't believe you, they will send you back – meaning, sending you back to your grave.”

The speaker is Yami, whose recollection of the Home Office's “substantive interview” for those seeking asylum is featured on The Claim's website.

Another audio testimony is that of Elif, who is sent into a traumatic emotional spiral by the gruelling questions about rape, torture and 18 years' imprisonment in Turkey put by two British male officials and a male interpreter in a windowless room: “Oh my god, the room was the same as a police cell. Small and no windows … to me it looked like purgatory.”

These and scores of other experiences have been woven into “a comically absurd and quietly shattering journey to the heart of our tolerant and fair society”. The organisers say “it's the only contemporary work to both satirise and humanise everyone around the Home Office interview table.”

It focuses on one claimant, Serge, and asks what happens when your life is at stake and all you have to save it are your words.

The play's British tour ends with performances at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre (10-13 January), Shoreditch Town Hall, London (16-26 Jan),The Gulbenkian in Kent (29 Jan), The Platform, Glasgow (31 Jan), and Northumbria University (2 Feb).

What marks out this production from others is that, in the words of director Mark Maughan, “We've made a concerted effort to have a range of 'engagement activities', such as Q&As after performances, workshops, legal surgeries, public “listening posts” in theatre foyers that feature specially recorded 'get to know a refugee' testimonies and publication of flyers with activism tips.

The venture is funded by the Arts Council, and has worked with a number of partners, including Freedom From Torture, GRAMNet, Counterpoints Arts, Right to Remain, Ice and Fire and Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre.


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