Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh
Theatre is a diverse art form that serves many purposes, but few of its incarnations are as affecting and important as a project like Dear Home Office.
It’s the story of unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the UK, and it’s performed with touching vulnerability by eight refugee boys from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Albania. And it’s hard to watch.
The play tells us about ‘Tariq’, whose story is an amalgamation of the performers’ own experiences, blended with fictional accounts, all developed in devising workshops. It’s cleverly structured, so that the actors’ inexperience doesn’t matter; their artless performances make the piece utterly compelling. This is not about polished delivery or exquisite drama skills; it’s a raw and truthful exposé – and it’s a vital piece of work.
We hear of desperate parents, who believe that their children’s survival depends on sending them away; of young boys crossing continents as fugitives, fighting to survive in an unforgiving world. Children who have experienced more horrors than most adults ever will, being questioned and disbelieved. These kids have endured so much – and they’re the lucky ones. Because they have the support of Kate Duffy and the Afghan Association Paiwand, who mentor unaccompanied minors and assist them into education, housing, etc., as well as advocating for them. And they have Phosphoros Theatre, who have helped them share their stories with a wider audience.
I cried most of the way through this play. But my tears don’t help anyone at all. I need to do something, because this really matters. There are thousands of children in the same situation, and we can’t stand by and let them suffer.
“Donate, volunteer, lobby, talk… Challenge preconceptions.” That’s what I intend to do.