- Deborah Chu
- 14 August 2019
This article is from 2019
Brutal and relentless portrait of modern Britain's asylum system
Two men circle one another: one is palpably nervous, tripping over his words, while the other, Serge, simply wants the chance to tell his story. The anxious man is 'A', and he'll be Serge's interpreter during his asylum interview. After many fits and starts, the two men seem to strike up a kind of rapport — that is, until 'b' arrives, and the interview begins.
What results is a dizzying and relentless examination of the chilling brutality of the UK's asylum system, which prizes coherency and efficiency above all else. Thus a life story, even one as complicated as Serge's, must be beaten into a shape that 'A' and 'b' can understand, using the blunt instrument of their prejudices. But The Claim is sophisticated and daring enough to give dimension to everything and everyone; even 'A' and 'b' are shown to be more than just cogs in the machine, but living, feeling and fallible beings, thus heightening the sense of inevitable tragedy.
As the interview spirals out of control, so too does language itself, leaving Serge's story at the mercy of other people's interpretations and preconceptions. English as a tool of power, and the misguided belief that being born British is an inherent virtue rather than the result of chance, is highlighted in this play to terrifying effect.
Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 20), 12.50pm, £14–£15 (£12–£13).