The Claim is written by Tom Cowbury and directed by Mark Maughan, it’s currently on a tour of the UK until 2 February, telling the tale of a single asylum claim.
Serge wants to claim asylum in the UK. To do this, he needs to tell his story, but the people he needs to tell it to don’t speak his language and all he has are his words. In a three way conversation between Serge, a well-meaning translator and the official who will decide if he can stay, we see how easily our words can be twisted and our story mis-told.
Ncuti Gatwa plays Serge, trying to get his story heard. Nick Blakeley is the translator, tasked with taking Serge’s words and explaining them to his colleague, played with convincing professional jobs-worthiness by Yusra Warsama. Initially played for laughs, the three characters speak over each other, jumping to conclusions at every turn rather than listening to one another. As time goes on, the audience comes to realise that Serge will be the victim of his words.
The Claim is in turn funny and bleak beneath the harsh strip lighting that surrounds the stage. Cowbury’s clever use of language makes for a compelling tale. His response to the stories of those seeking refuge in the UK based on accounts from those who have experienced the asylum process forces the audience to think about some challenging questions as we face the current refugee crisis. This is one version of a conversation that is played out daily in office buildings around the country. The tour is accompanied by free workshops and discussions on the subject of some of the issues raised in the show for those who are inspired to find out more.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Paul Samuel White