The Claim

The exasperating asylum seeking process is the subject of Tim Cowbury’s The Claim, a work designed to provoke and incite change

Review by Clare Sinclair | 05 Feb 2018
  • The Claim

While there were around 33,000 applications for asylum in the UK in 2016, it’s unknown how many people were granted refugee status to this country. Delays in the decision-making process make the figures almost impossible to track. With numbers this high it can be hard to remember that behind this figure lie 33,000 individual stories, singular people each with their own need to be here.

Tim Cowbury’s The Claim is the story of Serge (Ncuti Gatwa), a young man going through the asylum decision process – a decision which can only be made with the help of interpreter A (Nick Blakeley) and interviewer B (Yusra Warsama). Serge doesn’t speak much English, so is reliant on the interpretation given by A. But while they might speak the same language, they still don’t easily understand each other.

Mark Maughan’s direction of The Claim gives a sense of claustrophobia, of frustration. At first we laugh along with the misunderstandings between Serge and the interpreter. And although the piece is all in English, Cowbury’s writing is so well executed it’s clear early on that Serge speaks another language – French as we later find out. We chuckle along as the interpreter and Serge stumble through conversation, mildly exasperated at the interpreter’s inability to listen properly. And this feeling of frustration grows steadily, building into the sense of vexation that Serge too seems to feel.

Flickering, pulsing lights on an otherwise stark stage add to the sense of foreboding and unease. Gatwa paces the mood perfectly, hopeful optimism turning into angry frustration as his character realises his story is being misunderstood. Not only does endless red tape stop anyone from simply listening to him, the interviewer and interpreter allow their own views of the world to influence the words they think they hear Serge say.

The Claim drew on experiences from people who have been involved in the asylum decision making process, and it shows. It’s clear that the means to be granted refugee status needs vast improvement to ensure help is given where it’s needed. This is a performance designed to provoke and incite change; after all, everyone deserves for their story to be heard.

Platform, Glasgow, run ended,