Last month, I went to see Welcome To The UK at the Bunker Theatre, PSYCHEDelight’s new satirical piece about the troubles and stigma that comes with moving to the UK from different countries. I managed to grab some time with director Sophie NL Besse to learn more about the production.
HS: What is Welcome To The UK about and what can audiences expect from the show?
SNB: Our new show is a satire about the situation of refugees in this country. ‘The UK’ is a beautiful funfair led by our accordionist Prime Minister who rules this place. Refugees – and even some European emigrants now – try to walk through the different ‘attractions’ created in her hostile environment policy.
HS: Alongside Welcome To The UK, you are also performing Borderline, a satire on the Calais Jungle. Borderline was initially performed in 2016, how has the show developed since then?
SNB: The show has changed quite a lot indeed! The skeleton is the same, but some more people joined in and brought new skills in, or fed the story with elements of their own experiences of the Calais Jungle. And of course Borderline has changed a lot because the refugee performers in it, who have now been touring the show for two years, have definitely improved their acting skills a lot and it really feels like the show has reached another level. But my aim is to keep the same initial policy: to give an opportunity to people to have their voices heard, therefore we will continue to welcome newcomers even if they are not trained in acting. We might have a new young 16-year-old performer from Eritrea actually, he might join the show at the very last minute, but we’re still waiting for his social worker’s authorisation. Not knowing who will be in the cast for certain one week before we open is very much “Borderline-like” because of such reasons, due to the nature of our cast. But we learnt to deal with that, and to make the show happen no matter what.
HS: The show features a range of theatre genres from musical theatre to physical comedy to pantomime, and more. How challenging was it to seamlessly fit these genres together?
SNB: The show was devised by 16 people: 9 refugee performers from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Gambia, Iraq, and Zimbabwe, and 7 European performers from France, Italy, and the UK. They all brought various skills (music, singing, clowning, physical theatre and others) and it gave different perspectives and layers to the show. I tried to make sure that each performer would be at their best in the style chosen to convey their story. Some struggled with English but had a great physicality, others had a great sense of humour, or, on the contrary, were more sensitive and created extremely poetic imagery to convey their messages. And of course, as our show is about the UK, our British actors sprinkled all that with a pinch of panto and English humour! We’re a bit like London really, very diverse, but somehow it all comes together and that’s what makes us strong.
Huge thanks to Sophie for taking the time! You can read my review of Welcome To The UK here. For tickets and more information please visit https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/borderline/about
Until next time,