Writer: Rosie MacPherson
Director: Hannah Butterfield
Reviewer: Paul Couch
Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre in Bedfordshire has seen its fair share of controversy, from claims that officers were instructed to lock detainees in when the building caught fire in 2002, to hunger strikes and allegations of sexual and physical abuse. In the UK, we are told emphatically, suspected terrorists may be detained for up to 28 days. Those seeking asylum can be kept indefinitely.
“Tanja” is the name given to detainees by the British media in reference to asylum seekers speaking out against abuses within the system and the Tanja in SBC Theatre’s production is played eloquently and poignantly by Emily Ntshangase-Wood, who has had first-hand experience of the rigours of being detained as an asylum-seeker at Yarl’s Wood.
The writer, Rosie MacPherson, in this production playing Tanja’s Eastern European room-mate, has created a stark and compelling piece of meta-theatre that shows just how terrifying detention in a foreign country can be when English is not your first language and the customs not your own.
Director Hannah Butterfield wrangles her cast well, giving Ntshangase-Wood and MacPherson room to build a plausible dynamic between one woman who has just arrived and the other who has been languishing in Yarl’s Wood for 18 months. Also on stage is John Tomlinson as the omnipresent SERCO security guard, who seems to be a strange chimaera of sympathiser and predator.
For those who believe all asylum-seekers are drawn by the UK’s benefits system,“Tanja” should be mandatory viewing.
Reviewed on 4 June 2017
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