Serge (Ery Nzaramba) has a story to tell. Arrived in Britain with a now expired tourist visa, he’s seeking asylum to avoid returning back to where he fears for his safety. Two Home Office workers (Nick Blakeley and Emmanuella Cole) are charged with assessing his claim.
Upon arrival for his interview, he’s full of hope. He offers them some gummy snakes and starts talking openly about his plight, only to find that nobody is actually interested in listening. Blinded by bureaucracy, both officers stick rigidly to a template of questions that give no consideration for the individual. He requests a glass of water, but the protocol doesn’t include such a request, so they simply ignore it.
A striking dramaturgy juxtaposes his attempts to share his story with those exchanged by the two employees during a break. They talk of past life events when they’ve been conned, something that clearly clouds their vision now. Later, they both admit having veered off the truth to make their accounts more interesting. After all, to them “it’s just a story”.
Yet, when the time comes for Serge to recall his trauma – something that includes death and forcible migration – they’re so prone to misunderstandings, keen to read between the lines, that they end up entirely misconstruing it. Driven by prejudice, they build their own, utterly ignorant, version of the events. Their attitude is so frustrating that an audience member can actually be heard from the opposite side of the round muttering something. It’s clear that we want to step in, ask them to stop, to shut their mouths.
Serge is left to himself, with an unresolved emotional trauma that he’s been holding on to for decades. He is failed by a system totally oblivious to his dignity as a human being. Yet, all he needed was a glass of water and someone to listen to his story.
Based on years of personal research, Tim Cowbury’s writing is outstanding. The language is sharp, rich in its word play. Scenes flow into each other flawlessly, subtly building up the anger in us, the onlookers. The cast is equally amazing, creating characters so well-defined that we’re tricked into believing in their real existence, making us want to call out from our seats. We leave the auditorium suffocated by the injustice we’ve just witnessed.
Author: Tim Cowbury
Director: Mark Maughan
Producer: James Quaife Productions
Box Office: +44 (0)131 226 0000
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/claim
Booking Until: 25 August 2019