This latest play in the Young Vic’s refugee season was written by refugees themselves, in collaboration with local writers. In the first half, three actors take it in turns to tell the stories of Desmond, Mir and Michael (played with real charm by Gary Beadle, Manish Gandhi and Jonathan Livingstone). They sit on chairs and calmly take turns to tell their stories: there are no tears, no great theatrics, just lives laid bare.
Two of the refugees, Desmond and Mir, are persecuted for their sexuality in their native countries of Jamaica and Pakistan. The bittersweet tone of Desmond’s tale is the easiest to connect with, filled as it is with jokey, knowing asides, but there’s dignity in his quiet struggle for acceptance. Mir’s is perhaps the most shocking, made even more so by the calm manner in which he recounts the time his family had him locked away in a psychiatric hospital in an effort to “cure” him of his homosexuality.
Michael, on the other hand, is fleeing war in East Africa; his story isn’t out to shock, rather, it’s a sober fable of expectations versus reality, questioning whether refugees can ever really move on from their past.
The second half is a 45 minute monologue, written by Jamaican refugee Tamara McFarlane, about her first girlfriend. Well-structured and brought to life with loving details – such as the tutti frutti-flavoured chewing gum they’d pass between each other during make-out sessions – it’s the highlight of the night and actress Golda Rosheuvel’s vulnerability sets the piece on fire.
A beautifully performed piece of theatre that serves as a powerful reminder of the trauma and tragedy that lie behind the statistics.