Lives.In.Translation a compelling play about plight of people seeking asylum
I OVERHEARD someone say there’s a nickname for some local plays – ‘soda bread theatre’. You certainly can’t say that of this production because Lives.In.Translation is sharp and an international look at the appalling situation of those seeking asylum.
Before touring, the venue for this Kabosh theatre company play, written by Rosemary Jenkinson and directed by Paula McFetridge, was a vast empty warehouse on Belfast’s Boucher Road. Three sides of the pop-up theatre were metal transport containers and so bleak was the setting that the actors' voices had an eerie echo, which was most effective for this riveting story. It's a venue I’ve no doubt will be used again.
Asha (Raquel McKee) is a Somali woman caught in a web of bureaucracy when she flees her home in Mogadishu, hopeful of gaining asylum, and so of eventually bringing her family away from the dreadfulness of this war zone.
She wants to go to America but ends up in Dublin where she is schooled for her court appearance – and this is where mistranslation first causes authority to doubt her evidence, as she says the big tribes never see the little tribes.
She’s a pawn, moved from Dublin, to Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, London, Dublin, to Belfast – non-stop, vicious officialdom and no conclusion, only peaks and troughs of emotion as her asylum application is refused over and over again.
Three years multiply, until 10 years-plus have passed and she’s lost in the system.
Julie Maxwell and Tony Flynn act out a number roles, from translator to church worker and all between; the trio present a compelling evening of theatre.
We learn of the conflict in Asha’s country, the unsympathetic reaction of government and all the time the hours, months and years are ticking away on the back wall of the theatre space.
We see three actors and they get our applause but there’s a powerful team behind the scenes, and congratulations to them.
Jenkinson is scrupulous in her research and she has drawn on her own experience of being detained in Palestine and meetings with the Somali community in Belfast to accurately reflect their experiences. It has paid off.
:: Now touring, Lives.In.Translation will be performed at Dungannon Courthouse, Thursday November 2 at 8pm, and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, Derry, on SaturdayNovember 4 at 8pm. See kabosh.net or phone 028 9089 2707 for details.