WELCOME TO THE UK | London, The Bunker

PSYHEdelight’s anarchic sequel to 2016’s Borderline tells the story of the refugee experience in the UK, and director Sophie Besse’s surreal satire bridges the gap between audience and subject matter. Indeed, through the comic lens, the UK itself becomes a caricature: a land of preening royals, malignant media, imperious immigration officials and Shakespeare at the village fair.

As the audience enters we are offered a raffle ticket, and later we are asked to blow up a balloon and fill it with our dreams: what begins as a piece of light-hearted entertainment becomes unexpectedly poignant. Other arresting images include Debby Kareem becoming pregnant with a balloon; the exuberant Majid Zarei being forced to walk in circles, in a hamster wheel of Home Office bureaucracy; and the hilarious Mohand Badr’s desperate attempts to literally stay afloat as a Deliveroo driver.

But it is the story of Abd-Al Rehman, separated from his family and wife (played movingly by Yasmmen Ghrawi) for over 4 years, after a spelling mistake delays his application for 6 months, that provides the major through-line. His battle with Tamara Astor’s deranged, accordion-wielding Theresa May (complete with literal cloud head) brings together the series of arresting vignettes.

It conveys one simple message: the refugee experience is not what it has been billed. As Sophie Besse points out in the Q and A section (which runs daily and all who see the play should join), the aim is not to create commercially successful theatre here. It is to open minds, and for people who have been made invisible to be seen again.

Audience members under 30 can book £10 tickets online, until 16 February 2019.

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