Fringe theatre interview: Director Mark Maughan on finding humour in asylum play The Claim
Interview: Director Mark Maughan talks about about his work on new play The Claim which takes a satirical look at the UK's asylum process.
How did you get involved with The Claim and what drew you to the project?
Tim Cowbury (the writer) and I started researching and developing The Claim together back in 2015 and have collaborated on it ever since. I was interested in making a piece about migration, Tim about power and language.
Once we found out about the Home Office’s flawed asylum system, we knew that this was something that needed to reach a wide audience and the subject matter also had enough dramatic potential for us to be drawn to it as artists.
What was your approach in the rehearsal process?
Grit and grace. I am lucky to be surrounded by an absolutely first-rate cast and creative team, but we only had three weeks to rehearse before we met our audience, which went by extraordinarily quickly.
I shared key information from the research and development period with everyone who was new to the team, but most of our time was spent bringing our abstracted world of a real-life process to the stage.
It was also about breaking down the text into manageable chunks and repetition, as there are a lot of words to get through in a relatively short piece.
The Claim takes a satirical look at the UK's asylum process - what role does humour play and how do you balance that with the drama?
Sadly, my reaction to what we learnt about the asylum system was often laughter – at how completely ridiculous it is. Not including that absurdity would have been to misrepresent the reality of the process.
Of course, there is also a lot of drama in the Home Office interview as someone is using their words to fight for their lives, so the piece increasingly takes on this tone as it races towards its conclusion.
Why should people come to see The Claim?
Perhaps it’s a cliché to say, but The Claim really is for everyone. Those who have first-hand knowledge of the interview will see something that have experience of reflected back at them in a completely new way.
And those who don’t know the system or much about it will learn something new.
We’re aware that a lot of people coming to see the piece might already have their minds made up on their stance with regards asylum seekers – the piece is also for them as it asks bigger questions about the UK’s relationship to those who arrive from elsewhere, and encourages each audience member to reflect on their own set of values.
The Claim is on tour until February 2 and is at the Shoreditch Town Hall from January 16-26 and you can read my review here.
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