Review The Claim, Tim Cowbury and Mark Maughan, The Bikeshed Theatre, Exeter, by Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
In the brick walled room, the stage is set up with bright vertical solo lights and rostra featuring one white chair and a box of tissues.  Simplistic yet clinical.
The Claim is a story featuring an asylum seeker and two British office staff dealing with his claim to seek sanctuary in the UK.
The play purely faces upon the narrative. The interaction features interaction between the two office staff, their personal lives, their relationship and the participant, Serge; Serge and his broken English with one office staff and Serge and more fluent speech with the other office worker which we understand to be translated French.
This is a sneak peak at the difficulties in understanding communication, how stories can change a little like language Chinese whispers, and how a small misinterpretation can cost someone’s life and safety. In contrast, we see the luxury lives that we take for granted in the interaction of the two office workers but also picking on race and sexism and how even in a stable country as the UK, there is still hardship of some kind ; that makes us question why these two have less sympathy for Serge than they should do.
The conversations are rapid as they interrupt one another with short bursts of involvement. There’s a little Pinter-like technique in this, when some questions are answered and others aren’t, purposeful pauses, all highlighting the miscommunication and the lack of listening from the office workers. These short bursts also make us as frustrated as Serge – why can they not understand him? How are they getting it so wrong? Just help him.
At the beginning of the play we are invited to see an installation outside of interviews with real asylum seekers and this all brought together gives the points being made in the play a face, a personality and leaves you really thinking about the state of immigration and level of help governments give.
The Claim is a sympathetic look into current issues and a very thought provoking performance.

Hannah Goslin

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