Young Vic, Clare Studio (****)
If anyone still doubts that being a refugee is a life choice for obtaining easy hand-outs, I just wish they could see Now We Are Here in the Young Vic’s Clare Studio.
Four refugees, brought together by the charities, Room to Heal, Micro Rainbow International and NNLS Destitute Asylum Seekers Drop In is yet another eye-opener about what still continues to draw refugees to these shores.
In almost all cases it is about human rights, the desire to be free and in at least three cases, being gay and lesbian, to be able to live with self respect and without fear.
Fear stalks the stories of Desmond Jolly, Mir Ahmed, Michael Mugishangyezi and Tamara McFarlane, fear of family or cultural violence.
McFarlane’s tale is shocking. Growing up in Montego Bay, Jamaica she witnesses homophobia at first hand – a mob dragging a father and son from their house and burning the son alive because he is gay. Realising her own sexuality, and told by Golda Rosheuval with unbearable emotional honesty, her story is shot through with physical pain and fear of the possibility of the same fate befalling her and her beloved great grand-mother.
Fear of reprisal also distinguishes Mir Ahmed’s beatings at the hands of his Pakistani family. Performed by Manish Gandhi with quiet dignity, Mir is locked up by his family and subjected to drug treatment before escaping to England.
Jamaican Desmond Jolly’s tale too is one of subterfuge and disguise. But it is Michael Mugishangyezi’s account, conveyed by Jonathan Livingstone with grave eloquence, that best describes the refugee’s daily experience of lack of purpose and curtailment of the simplest of desires.
Indeed it is in the contrast between no status and the status we as residents all take for granted that Now We Are Here finds its most telling and humbling message. And in their very existence of telling, perhaps some measure of hope.
The stories, beautifully shaped by Deanna Rodger and Imogen Brodie, immaculately directed by Ian Rickson and delivered with a wonderful naturalness by all the actors creates not only heartbreaking theatre but unflashy, peerless artistry.
Now We Are Here
Created by refugee writers in workshops with Deanna Rodger, Ian Rickson and Imogen Brodie
Direction: Ian Rickson
Stage Manager: Anastasia Dyson
With kind support from: Adrian and Lisa Binks and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Part of Horizons – a season exploring the lives of refugees
First perf in Young Vic Clare Studio, July 20, 2016