Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Dear Home Dramaturgy: Phosphoros Theatre @ Edfringe 2017

Phosphoros Theatre presents Dear Home Office: Still Pending 
Gilded Balloon 21 – 27 August 14:30

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Dear Home Office: Still Pending is performed by ten refugee young men who came to the UK when they were children, seeking asylum. This show follows their stories as they navigate adulthood: education, work, relationships, court cases and media interest. We made this show because our first show Dear Home Office, was a sell-out success and was nominated for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2016, and our cast wanted to keep acting. 

But, we couldn’t keep touring the old show because their real lives had moved on – this is where ‘Still Pending’ picks up. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

As I sat waiting for our recent Oxford performance of Dear Home Office: Still Pending to begin, I heard an audience member behind me say, “it’s just going to be vilifying the Home Office isn’t it – oh those bad Home Office people, aren’t they horrible to refugees”. I laughed to myself because this isn’t what our show is about – far from it – but how fantastic that the performance is quite literally raising those politically loaded questions in the audience. 

After our shows people are often quite moved: they have read about refugees but they haven’t actually met any, heard their stories first hand, seen them struggle with English words… At the end of each performance we are always invited to speak at conferences or attend training events, simply because the coming together of this special group of non-actors opens up every possible debate on refugee and child migration issues. 

How did you become interested in making performance? 

Phosphoros Theatre has evolved from a group of young women who met doing youth theatre – two of us were the directors of the youth theatre and the other two were members. We have always loved performance for its ability to create spaces for social issues to be explored, understood, reframed and finally, entertained with. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show? 

Working in Applied Theatre means that our process is very specific. The four-strong team of female theatre practitioners do workshops with the cats and discuss possible storylines based on their lives. We then meet to storyline the script before fleshing the dialogue out. 

It is then read, rehearsed, refined and finally directed. A huge part of the process however, is he holistic support element that means that whilst we are undertaking the making of the play, we are also working with the cast on their English language skills, cultural integration and therapeutic education through a range of activities that we offer and support. This means that the play making process is like running a family – lots of praise, positivity and love. 

Uniquely for our performances is that we  have to cope with the fragile statuses of our cast members. The play is story-lined in a way that means we can rehearse with small groups of performers at a time, taking into account church, mosque and work commitments. 

Does the show fit your usual productions? 

The women in Phosphoros Theatre have worked together in some way or another for over ten years. Our performances have the theme of identity running through them, are usually written to fit the cast we are working with, and nearly always have comedy, mixed-genre conventions and multi-media. Dear Home Office: Still Pending features our characteristic interweaving of multi-narratives which exploration current political issues. 

What do you hope the audience will experience? 

We want the audience to be informed about the issues that young adult refugees face and to see that all young people have the power and potential to make contributions to our society, if the system allows them. We also want to show that there are systems in place to offer opportunities to young people, so the way the media vilifies and exploits this emotive topic is not necessarily fair. 

Most of all, we want the audience to see that the label ‘refugee’ is an impermanent political identifier and to celebrate our young people. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

Raw comedy, moving monologues, bilingual scenes, behind the scenes snapshots and speaking out of role all help to break the fourth wall and make our audience feel part of our Phosphoros family. 

Our audience naturally come on to the stage at the end of the show, as our cast drift out to chat to people. We also invite audience to write messages and we are in touch with so many people through social media that the audience quickly become our friends!

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