Still Here

Still Here is a new piece of verbatim theatre formed from an interview conducted in the Calais refugee camp during December 2015. Rachel Partington, interviewer, writer, and cast member, plays herself; a thoroughly likeable and thoughtful do-gooder heading off to Calais with a backpack full of Parma Violets and sporting a woolly Christmas hat.

This show comes recommended for its powerful production value and daring location.

Although it’s blurb suggests that the piece is ‘based on the experiences of an Eritrean refugee,’ who is played superbly by Afolabi Alli, it really centers on Partington’s experience to Calais and back again. The performance is primarily composed of two monologues, with Partington’s framing the unnamed Eritrean man’s. Partington’s monologue contains an ample amount of western guilt, and some padding that verges on the clichéd. However, it is also clearly a script with a lot of heart.

The production itself is thought-provoking and visually interesting. Their site-specific venue, The Tent, is pitched outside St Mary’s Cathedral: a powerful placement when it is revealed that Partington and the Eritrean man meet through a church in the camp. The set, like the venue, is constructed in a resourceful fashion, mimicking the refugee camp. Scaffolding and planks of wood form the stage, with bottles of water used to create interesting lighting, and even sound; looping the sloshing of water over music.

Jac Baylis’ score, a synthetic undercurrent to the show, is well-judged, and used effectively by director Sarah Bradley. Bradley has her actors move seamlessly together throughout the space, creating neat movement sequences that tell a story. Use of puppetry is also highly effective, with hoodies manipulated by Alli and Emily Bradley (actor musician) at one point forming two refugees: faceless and voiceless representations of real people.

The performances all-round are highly commendable. Partington is a subtle actor, a competent narrator, and a sympathetic listener. Opposite her, Alli’s performance is magnetic. Alli has an endearing manner, looking on wide-eyed at Partington and smiling bashfully during their first meeting. When he realises that Partington is there to listen to him, he speaks with passion and an immense amount of pain. His monologue, as the inspiration for the play itself, is really spectacular.

The focus of the play could do with some reworking and the ending jars somewhat with the rest of the play. However, this show comes recommended for its powerful production value and daring location. Definitely worth the trek out beyond the centre.

Reviews by Ellie Coote

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The Blurb

A new verbatim play based on the experiences of an Eritrean refugee. Taken from an interview conducted in the Calais Jungle on 21st December 2015, Still Here documents the journey of a man as he fled persecution for his faith, and the journey of the British girl who interviewed him. Cast and creatives from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School present this powerful piece of new work, set in a site-specific space – The Tent