by Rosemary Jenkinson
Tours from 31st October, Downpatrick, Newtownards, Dungannon, Derry
I saw the end of the Belfast run of ‘Lives.in.Translation’ before the company go on tour next week. Friday’s venue added to the bleakness of this play, the old B&Q warehouse on Boucher Road, concrete floor, can’t see the roof it’s so high above, a ghostly atmosphere with a few lights to guide you to the pop-up theatre somewhere in the middle of the building.
On three sides huge metal transport containers, the back wall has a digital clock counting down the time over wallpaper of forms, government rules and regulations, personal forms to be filled in, there’s nothing else to see from our raked seating that made up the fourth wall.
Then the play begins as Raquel McKee comes centre stage and we meet Asha.
The emptiness of the huge place causes the actors voices to take on an echo which brings an additional chill to this chilling play.
Jenkinson is scrupulous in her research and she has drawn on her own experience of being detained in Palestine and meetings with the Somali community in Belfast to accurately reflect their experiences.
Kabosh is well known for it’s fearless look at difficult subject and with this production these values have paid off.
Asha is a Somali woman who is caught in a web of bureaucracy when she flees from her home in war torn Mogadishu. She leaves her family behind with the hope that through gaining asylum she will some day be able to bring them to safety.
Initially she thinks she’s going to America but ends up in Dublin where she is schooled for her court appearance and this is where mistranslation first causes authority to doubt her evidence, as she says the big tribes never see the little tribes. She’s a pawn moved from Dublin, to Belfast, to Glasgow, to Manchester, to London, to Dublin, to Belfast – non-stop vicious officialdom and no conclusion.
This is a play of words but far from a radio script, Raquel McKee’s acting bring with it all her skills of storytelling, in her expressive face we see and feel the peaks and troughs of emotion as her asylum application is refused over and over again and she appeals to us for understanding. She never gives up as three years on the back wall multiply until it reads ten years plus and she admits she is lost in the system. But Asha translates to Hope in English and that is something that Asha continues to hold in her heart.
Julie Maxwell and Tony Flynn act out a number roles from government officials to church worker and all between; the trio present a compelling evening of theatre.
We learn what it’s like to experience the conflict in Asha’s country, the fury of unsympathetic government departments as time ticks away. Frustration.
We spend just over an hour with three actors and they get our applause but there is a powerful team behind the scenes and congratulations to them.
Try to catch this show during the tour if not, this is such a current subject, I hope it will return time and again to educate us all on the plight of refugees.