In 2016 Phosphoros Theatre brought Dear Home Office to the fringe. It told the story of its actor’s experiences as unaccompanied young refugees travelling to the UK to seek asylum, and coping with the obstacles placed in their way. This year, Phosphoros is back with Dear Home Office 2: Still Pending a sequel which answers the questions asked by audiences after the first show.
This is an important and creatively devised piece of theatre, continuing to tell the parts of these young men’s stories that often go unheard. A collection of snapshots which show us varied experiences from starting college to navigating the difficulties of seeking asylum, all shed light on the bigger picture of what being a refugee in the UK means.
The actors in the play take us through different stories of living a new life in the UK with re-enactments of their lived experiences, and manifestations of what could happen to themselves or other people in their situation. They play both versions themselves and the system which has let them down, communicating their stories with nuance and honesty. However, there are times when the transitions between scenes seem a little unpolished, a technical detail which detracts some impact from the show.
There is a wry humour that runs throughout the piece, mocking the ignorance and lack of logic that is behind systems of immigration in the UK. A satirical sketch of film producers represents the media’s determination to tell a single, romanticised narrative, sending up the kind of misrepresentation that this play is far removed from.
Mainstream press and media is so busy misrepresenting the Syrian refugee crisis that it often overlooks entirely the existence of those fleeing from many of the countries that the young men in this play are from, such as Somalia and Albania.
This play is as emotive as it is educational. In a particularly powerful scene, one of the characters remembers the beauty and familiarity of his hometown in Somalia, challenging head on the idea that seeking asylum in the UK is a choice.
Phosphoros are a promising and unique theatre company who have crucial stories to tell. Their work on Dear Home Office 2: Still Pending is imaginative and bold. I hope to see them returning with more plays in future as they inevitably grow.
Dear Home Office 2: Still Pending played at Gilded Balloon as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.