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THE CLAIM (S'ditch Town Hall & National Tour)

The Claim is a piece of new writing by Tim Cowbury (Made In China) and Mark Maughan, looking at those who navigate the immigration system in the UK.

The Claim gently invites you into the most British of interviews, then morphs into a dizzying onslaught of bureaucracy and prejudice. The play simultaneously abstracts and faithfully charts the journey of a single asylum claim. A bold, imaginative response to the stories of those seeking refuge in the UK, The Claim asks what happens when your life is at stake and all you have to save it are your words.

Cowbury comments, “We live in a time that’s more fractiously globalised than ever before, where the language of place and identity is unprecedentedly loaded and paradoxical. Few situations embody this moment as absurdly and tellingly as the substantive interview at the heart of every asylum claim in the UK. The interview room is a cauldron of words, in which refugees are asked to define themselves via a translator in a way that satisfies the UK’s criteria. Behind the barrage of questions asked of refugees are deeper questions we need to ask of the ourselves: who we are, what we stand for, what histories we may or may not have moved on from.'

A comprehensive programme of wraparound activities will provide audiences and participants with safe spaces for learning, reflection and dialogue. Activities include: a specially commissioned series of testimonies written by refugees in collaboration with Freedom From Torture, one-off legal surgeries for those soon to face the Home Office interview, post-show discussions, Q&As and much more.

The Claim seeks to not just raise awareness, but to ask bigger questions of the UK’s relationship with asylum seekers.

Tour venues include Sheffield Crucible, Manchester Royal Exchange, Exeter Bike Shed Theatre and Shoreditch Town Hall (London). Full tour details can be found here.

★★★★, Daisy Bowie-Sell:

'Ncuti Gatwa, Yusra Warsama and Nick Blakeley are all exceptionally poised as Serge, B and A and deal with the fast pace and key timing of the script beautifully. Warsama's subtle hand movements, her regimented, forced smiles demonstrate the awful rigidity of those enforcing rules, while Gatwa's wide eyed smiles at the beginning paint a good willed, innocent Serge: not someone who warrants the suspicion with which B treats him. Blakeley is a good humoured fool, hoping to help but not managing to really listen, he's too caught up in his own personal issues to be able to focus on another's. 

The Claim is a masterclass in the pitfalls of language, a taut, funny but ultimately massively unsettling piece of work which is a stark and vital reminder of interpretation, viewpoint and how our black and white systems don't make enough room for vulnerable people. How would any of us cope at making ourselves clearly understood in a language we don't even know?'

★★★★ Time Out, Matt Breen:

'The whole play is delivered in English, but it’s a testament to all three actors that it’s obvious when they’re switching between English and French. Gatwa, in particular, does a fantastic job: fiercely articulate one minute, frantically stammering the next. If the good cop/bad cop dynamic between the two apparatchiks is a little oversimplified, it reveals two different sets of problematic attitudes towards asylum seekers. A is well-intentioned but naïve, too willing to paint Serge with the victim brush; B is patient but happy to use the rulebook as her moral compass. (Warsama shines here, with her by-numbers civility and hand gestures that look like they’ve been taught in a training session.)'

★★★ The Guardian, Michael Billington:

'Mark Maughan’s production is swift, clear and well-acted. Ncuti Gatwa as Serge captures the bewilderment of a decent man who finds that his story gets lost in translation, Nick Blakeley is all chatty intimacy as A and Yusra Warsama all frosty caution as B. At the last count, there were 33,000 people applying for asylum in Britain. I can only say that, if this play is anything to go by, one fears for their future.'

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Photograph: Tristram Kenton

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