Sophie Besse’s ‘Borderline’ is a black comedy based on the lives of refugees who have lived in the Calais Jungle.
The cast includes a diverse range of performers both from Refugee and European backgrounds as it was showing at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington from 6-11th March.
I had to chance to talk to some of the amazing artists right after the play; three in specific who had a lot to say.
Baraa, Yasin and Rob played a huge part alongside other performers to make this theatrical production become what it is through not only sharing experiences, but also
keeping up-to-date with the news.
“We built the scenes from the experiences from Calais or what we hear from France,” said Baraa – a Syrian refugee who spent six months in Calais. “And we started a six-week devising process.
“It’s built literally from something little and we became really close friends and family”.
Rob is one of the European cast members who enjoyed being able to meet, work and share with a diverse range of people.
“It’s brilliant because you get to meet so many different people and you get to learn so much about so many different cultures,” he said. “You do get to hear so many different stories that in a way all follow a similar pattern. So it is brilliant to work with a diverse cast.
“And of course it is quite interesting in this moment of time to just be able to sort of use what’s happening out there and in Europe and show it back to people saying: ‘Look, this is what we’re doing and this is what’s happening’”.
Other than Islington, the show has been able to travel far into different parts of the globe. With performances in places such as India, Denmark and Switzerland in June.
Borderline has also been performed in different parts of the UK including the Southbank Centre, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich, Stockton and Liverpool in May.
The group also performs and provides workshop at schools for younger audiences to understand the situation.
As Baraa put in his own words: “For me Borderline was like a snow ball that started rolling to become bigger and bigger”.
Yasin is an Iranian refugee who was also in Calais and is one of the first performers shown onstage.
He discussed the variety of talented artists that he met at a geodesic dome opened by Good Chance in Calais, which allowed refugees to artistically express themselves with the premise of theatre.
“After the group came to the UK, that group (Good Chance Theatre) used our talent to our own benefit – it is very, very good for us.”
With a passion in performing, Yasin dreams in becoming an actor one day.
“I think I’m very happy with the opportunities I am getting. I would like to be an actor, that is one of my dreams.”
Packed with humour but informative with the plight of some living in refugee camps, the cast remain onstage after the play for a Q&A session with the audience.
Some may question the morality behind displaying such a topic in a comedic perspective, but I say it does a great job in not only informing audiences about the crisis, but also breaking the derogatory connotations associated with refugees in the society we live in today.
“Through addressing a big variety of audiences all around Europe, we are trying to change the stereotype of refugees seen in the media and big tabloids.
“Through Borderline, through performing what was happening in Calais and through the Q&A after, the audience have the chance to meet us in person and maybe have a five-minute conversation.
“They say: ‘okay, these people are talented, educated – they have similar dreams and hopes and fears just like us’. So where are these differences coming from? Only through the media and different governments,” Baraa explained.
Rob added that he hoped all types of people will be able to watch the play and change the way they think about the refugee crisis.
When asked about the target audience, he said: “Hopefully everyone. But at the same time you do want to target younger audiences because they are the ones that need to get more politically engaged and they are the ones that eventually will make all the decisions at some point.
“So you want to make sure that you open up to people who already are not set in their own ways, but who are more open to different ideas and different worldly views.”
Baraa concluded the discussion by expanding the importance of maintaining a legacy for younger viewers.
“I think for the future, if we are not able to change the situation now at least we can try and change it for the next generation so they don’t have to live in the same situation in Europe.”
After watching the play and talking with the cast, all I can say is that we as a nation need to try harder in humanising refugees rather than marginalising them.
*Photographer: José Farinha