Undercover Refugee

The refugee crisis is undoubtedly difficult to discuss. However it is one of the most important and controversial issues of the year. Often the refugees are dehumanised in a number of fear-mongering tabloid stories, but it’s plain to see that their suffering is real. Surely, anyone on the side of Team Humanity should be doing all that they can to help, and if that helping happens to bring some Facebook ‘likes’ along with it, then that is just a perk of the job.

Although Houge seems likable and well-meaning, the performance itself comes over as self-congratulatory and patronising.

Karen Houge presents us a one-woman show, telling the story of the summer she spent in Labos, trying to save some refugee lives and get a tan. It’s a story of real struggle and friendship. She speaks to the audience directly to teach them something they probably already knew – the Syrians don’t actually need a young Norwegian actress to come save them. After going on a trip that she realised was more helping herself than helping the refugees, Karen is here in Edinburgh with a show that is more helping herself than helping the audience.

You could easily be mistaken by the description of the show for thinking that Undercover Refugee is going to be some sort of comedy. However, even if some attempts at humour were made, they definitely failed. Perhaps it’s an issue with timing, or perhaps it’s the material, but none of the jokes seemed to really land, creating awkward moments with a grown woman pretending to be an aeroplane. Although Houge seems likable and well-meaning, the performance itself comes over as self-congratulatory and patronising. What Houge does do well is humanise a group of people who are so often demonised. The stories of the refugees themselves were heart-warming and interesting. Perhaps they should have been the centre of the performance. 

Reviews by Gillian Bain

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

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★★★
Summerhall

Pussy Riot: Riot Days

★★★★★
Traverse Theatre

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★★★★
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The Egg Is a Lonely Hunter

★★★
Traverse Theatre

Meek

★★★★
C venues – C cubed

The Unbinding

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

What happens when a 25-year-old Norwegian documentarist and Gaulier-trained actor travels through Europe undercover together with refugees? A show about white heroes, cool policemen and sexy Syrians. Karen Houge went to Lesbos and followed seven Syrian refugees from the beach and through Europa. A new society is formed around the trail; bloggers, journalists, mafia, policemen, refugees and volunteers, functioning together in an absurd system full of paradox. Karen Houge is an Gaulier trained actor, documentarist, stand-up performer and improviser. She describes the journey and the people we meet with depth and humour that takes us beyond tabloid perceptions.