I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so angry while watching a play. Angry at story steeped in a ridiculous incompetence from those that hold sway over the lives of others.
Serge (Ncuti Gatwa) is seeking asylum and has an interview with Home Office officials.
He has been in the UK for a year, lives in a house in Streatham and has a job. His wish is simple: He wants to live, something he feels he can’t do in his home country the Congo.
The story the Home Office staff want to know is why he can’t go back home but it isn't as straightforward as that.
Hindered by the opening of old wounds and a desire to give the right information, the telling of Serge's story is also hampered by language barriers and interruptions.
One of his interviewers, B (Yusra Warsama) is officious and doesn't speak Serge's language. Her colleague A (Nick Blakeley) is a sympathetic but incompetent translator. Both are distracted by personal issues such as forthcoming holidays and leaving work on time.
It is a scenario that has the ridiculousness of a farce. However, given his research into the Home Office immigration process writer Tim Cowbury has created a story which takes on a Kafka-esque edge of frustration, dehumanisation and danger.
It is sharply written and performed with perfect timing so as to simultaneously reveal truths and misunderstandings. It is a play that demonstrates not only the power of words but also the danger if misinterpreting those words.
The Claim is a punchy piece that had me biting my tongue and gripping my seat and I'm giving it five stars. See at Shoreditch Town Hall until January 26 and then it continues on tour. It is 75 minutes long without an interval.