“We live in a very violent hierarchy. Just look at our centre, where we work. Have you ever really sat down and grieved, for a single day in your life?” asks George. Our two protagonists stand in their boxers in a sex club in Walthamstow. During work Mo and George are both detention officers in an immigration removal centre and the play also follows their time at work. We see Mo intervene with detainee Didi’s deportation because he believes he is in love with her. Their boss, Beatrice is trying to introduce compassion and empathy between the detainees and detainers, through workshops. She finds out that Didi is pregnant with Mo’s child, through George.
At the end of the piece Beatrice sings the song ‘Keep My Skin’ with the words: “Use the hole inside my torso, as the chamber for the fire, throw in the reports I done, my audits, wedding ring and tongue” illustrating that we are merely vessels. George tries to resign but fails to.
The space in The Yard Theatre is quite unique, which is echoed wonderfully by the use of sound (Joshua Anuo Grigg), lights and projection (Joshua Pharo). The all encompassing design is well constructed by Bethany Wells, tying in with the original music by M.J. Harding with Jonah Brody. The direction (Jay Miller) is unique, just like the design. From the first scene, the use of voice and physicality that is required from the actors is stretched. To show they are not active within a scene, they are often moving slowly in the background. The songs are spoken through their characters, often characterised with lewd dancing, aggressive pulsing or slow tableaus of movement (by Project O).
The two actors do well to make the dialogue energetic and engaging, which is clearly driven by their needs. They bounce off each other well. While George (Barnaby Power) is gesticulating with fervour, Mo (Mark Field) is sullen and solemn. Field presents a deeply disquieting figure, “Spiritually you have the appearance of a dictator making a run for the helicopter. Your gaze is an atrocity.” Some of the one liners strike through the tension and hit us square in the teeth, it is dark humour at its finest. Clare Perkins as Beatrice is sharp and witty; she is an honest and open actress, presenting us with a boss who is constantly trying despite herself.
Although on the surface it might not seem apparent, but there is a teeny tiny gem of a lesson in humanity in Removal Men. It is trying so hard to push its way through, subtly and honestly. The piece talks about our being a part of the hierarchy, and never being able to change it. We are susceptible to being used within it and we are often not aware of that. Within our jobs, we are forced into doing things we might not want to do, and so we remove our compassion in order to get through it. We are used as bodies sometimes, to do the work of other people that we don’t agree with, as much as we try to, we cannot escape this. Our world has become impersonal and imperfect. We are removed from the frontline action almost entirely (such as in the piece) and focus mostly on how we, ourselves, will continue.
And there it was, niggling away at the subject matter, fuelling every single piece of M.J. Hardings dialogue. And yes, that is entirely what a successful piece of theatre needs. The way that the piece is created allows the subject matter to be much more accessible to us. We can relate to this.
The Yard is a relatively new theatre space, a transformed warehouse with a modern feel, and they are committed to the development of new artists. “We tell stories to look at contemporary society from different perspectives… Removal Men depicts the power we wield over others; the violence inflicted through our efforts to keep people safe. A world in which our alienation from others is dangerous, deep-rooted, and growing. A world in which compassion is in crisis.” The Yard is a registered charity itself and is collecting for the Yard’s Wood Befrienders after every performance.
Removal Men is playing The Yard Theatre until 10 of December. For more information and tickets, see The Yard Theatre website.