Claire Harrill

at 09:54 on 2nd Mar 2012

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This was not what I expected. I was expecting some kind of inauthentic moralising verbatim theatre experience. Instead, the Asylum Monologues was simply a rehearsed reading of the testimonials of three asylum seekers, and one man who had helped an Asylum seeker. It was sparsely done; four actors sitting on chairs, the house lights still up, reading from the scripts. The acting itself was delicate, minimal, allowing the words to speak for themselves. There was no theatricality to it at all, and this allowed the sadness of the stories themselves to come through, and the horror. The women, repeatedly raped, tortured, beaten, the man forced to watch his sister raped, and the most chilling part, described by one of the monologues as ‘diplomatic torture’ was the repeated refusal of the Home Office to declare the claims of these Asylum Seekers as valid, the repeated appealing procress they all had to go through, the wounds on their bodies ignored, their sufferings ignored, their stories disbelieved. Although we all know it must go on, it’s still shocking to hear the first hand accounts of people devoured by the heartless machine of bureaucracy. This was brave, honest, close to the bone. Run by the charitable organisation ‘Welcome Asylum’ it was more like a documentary than a piece of theatre. It was a wonderful choice to read the monologues this way; they were so much more than the kind of sympathy-voyeurism that so much verbatim theatre creates. Because it wasn’t presented as a theatrical spectacle, there was no way to relate to it in that way. The monologues must be related to as facts, their speakers as individuals. This wasn’t a play, this wasn’t theatre, this was the ugly truth that hides all around us in the places we know are there but don’t want to look. We should look.

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