Dear Home Office :Still Pending

Amidst the large amount of political theatre at the Fringe, Dear Home Office: Still Pending sticks out. And not just because the cast members are all actual refugees. They’re non-professional actors who, in several cases. started out with very low levels of English. This play sticks out because it was not made so as to inspire strong emotions in the audience, to cause tears or ire for instance. Instead its strategy is realism, an honest depiction of what these men go through in their attempts to integrate into Great Britain.

An intimate and subtly poignant story told by those who rarely get their voices heard.

In this sense it was quite a particular kind of theatre, the line between acting, telling a story, and simply being oneself hardly visible. The play is essentially about a group of men from four different countries--Afghanistan, Albania, Eritrea and Somalia--who came to the UK as unaccompanied minors and have had to navigate through the difficulties involved. Dear Home Office came out last year and was on at the Fringe as well: it was a project of Phosphorus Theatre, which is funded by the Arts Council England and led by three artists who seek to use theatre for social justice, as a means of alternative storytelling.

Dear Home Office: Still Pending explores what has happened in the life of the young men who performed at the Fringe last year (and a couple of new ones) since their first experience in theatre. It is in part based on true stories and in part based on things that could have happened: the distinction between the two is never made clear in scenes on stage, so that the truth behind details starts to matter less than the general truth of the plight of these young refugees.

That being said, the show is perhaps surprisingly centered on details. Instead of telling a large-scale, grand story of the journey of these young refugees, from the hardships of their home country through the difficulties of the journey to their mistreatment in the UK, the play chronicles a series of small interactions the men live through as they try to settle in, stemming from the more serious, being rejected by the home office, to the more trivial, cooking by oneself for the first time, and thus putting pasta in an electric kettle thinking it will boil. These scenes are never over-dramaticised, and so one feels a different kind of pathos, stemming from the knowledge that these are things the young men right in front of you possibly went through.

One cannot come into this show expecting a well-articulated storyline performed beautifully from start to end. But one can walk in expecting a degree of honesty rarely present in theatre performances, even those who want to portray a certain political reality. Though there might be a lack of professionalism and fancy props or backdrops, there is also an intimate and subtly poignant story told by those who rarely get their voices heard.

Reviews by Melanie Erspamer

Gilded Balloon Teviot

Dear Home Office :Still Pending

★★★★
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★★★
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★★★★
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★★★★

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The Blurb

A new play created with and performed by 10 refugee young men; 2016 Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award nominees explore the lives of young asylum seekers in real talk. Kareem's settled in London when his brother arrives from Afghanistan. Elgi turns 18 and dreams of uni, only to be thwarted by his unresolved asylum claim. Stardom beckons for Filmon who's courted by TV producers – but is his face "refugee" enough? Funny, raw, unforgettable: a coming-of-age in unique and extreme circumstances. 'One of the best examples of art for a cause' **** (ThreeWeeks).

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