Welcome to the UK

Bunker Theatre – until 16 February 2019

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Borderline’s follow up to their satire of the Calais Jungle focuses on what happens once refugees have arrived in the UK. The labyrinthine and sometimes farcical process of applying for refugee status is portrayed as a slightly seedy end of pier funfair, overseen by a jovial announcer who answers to the accordion-playing UK (think Theresa May after a few too many gins). Director Sophie NL Besse guides the multinational cast through a series of skits and songs that are a little hit and miss, but the energy and enthusiasm of the cast make any missteps perfectly forgivable.

As a Syrian man sits staring at his phone, waiting for confirmation of his status so that he can send for his wife and child, the other inhabitants of the funfair cavort about, working hard at multiple jobs while preserving the idea that they can survive on the generous £5 a day the state gives them. A gay Iranian runs into trouble over being initially fingerprinted in Hungary, a young Gambian woman enters the country believing she will have an idyllic life with a new husband, only to be locked in the “haunted house” with exclusively male customers. Prowling the funfair is reporter “Katie” twisting facts and drumming up anti-immigrant feeling with vile words. The fact that she can’t say “Europe” without gagging is a hoot.

The cast teaching each other English through Shakespeare and dancing with the Fairground staff are joyous moments, made better by the staff feebly protesting that they can’t join in as they are supposed to provide a hostile environment. Home Office interviews, Paperwork and the queue for a blue British passport are all lampooned with biting but exuberant humour, and the repeated portrayal of each stage in the process as a game of chance and risk is inspired.

A thought provoking and irresistibly charming show that highlights the talent and spirit of the people who risk everything to come to this country.