Eye of a Needle

Immigration is probably the most inflammatory issue at present in our society with the possible exception, for some, of Europe. Oh, and possibly for others, independence.

Chris Macdonald’s debut play takes us into the heart of the system once famously – or infamously – dubbed by John Reid as `unfit for purpose’, to a Home Office immigration centre where asylum seekers are being processed and an organisation cracking under internal and external pressures.

Based on actual cases, Macdonald has chosen a very particular section of society to highlight the system’s shortcomings. These asylum seekers are all drawn from LGBT applicants.

Easier to get through the eye of the a needle than into the kingdom of heaven, for a black gay man from Uganda, Jamaica and elsewhere, getting into the UK must seem as impossible as those fleeing to safety from Iraq, Syria and north Africa.

The urge for survival pushes desperate people to desperate measures and whilst homosexuals in some countries are being hounded to their deaths, claiming asylum as a homosexual as Macdonald shows, can lead to horribly absurdist situations.
How do you prove homosexuality?

As a kind of merry-go-round farce, Eye of a Needle offers some occasionally graphically humorous conversations between the young, greenhorn Immigration Officer, Laurence (an engaging Nic Jackman), his slightly seedy senior officer, Ted (Stephen Hudson) and Ekow Quartey’s desperate to prove his gay credentials Ugandan, Mulogo.

Laurence, out of his depth but well-meaning runs into big trouble, however, with Ony Uhiara’s eloquent LGBT Ugandan activist, Natale. And it is through their exchanges, its consequences and reaction from Ted that Macdonald points up the ever widening, unbridgeable gap between a government policy trying to limit and keep people out with a system that is understaffed and under-resourced, against an ever increasing tide of asylum seekers wishing to come in and the tragic results that this can produce.

Director Holly Race-Roughan keeps the pace, light and abstract by introducing a physical momentum to show workers and clients constantly clashing up against each other.

A comedy of angst, laughter was ever the most potent of indictments. And so it proves here.