Page 131

5. Don’t Let Them Tell You Stories: extract from a play by Brian Woolland - London Context(s) “Don’t let them tell you stories” is a play which has been written in response to the experience of taking part in THE PROMISED LAND project. It draws heavily on stories I have heard during the project (from refugees, and from colleagues), and also on interviews and conversations with people who have related experience but are not directly involved with THE PROMISED LAND project. We are bombarded with images of refugees which encourage us to think of them as ‘others’, as if the human beings we are watching or hearing about are members of a homogenous group. And even when these ‘others’ are not demonised, there is a tendency to think of ‘us and them’ as essentially different. The unspoken assumption is that their lives are not like ours. In each of THE PROMISED LAND training weeks this tendency has been challenged in the most positive ways – through lectures, workshops, formal discussions and informal conversations. But if ‘they’ are far more complex than alienating generalisations allow, so, too, are ‘we’. The play addresses these over simplifications directly. About the play and the extract The political and social situation in the UK is so unstable (and is changing so fast throughout the European Union) that if the play were to be in ‘the present’ it would be out of date by the time it went into production. I therefore decided to set it in ‘a near future’, and although the characters and plot are informed by experiences of THE PROMISED LAND, it is not a piece of documentary nor verbatim theatre. The scene reproduced here comes early in the play. It is one of several interviews which take place at the Asylum Seekers Processing Service (ASPS). This is a fictional institution, but the regulations and constraints within which the characters are operating are similar in spirit to those in place in the UK at the time of writing. The Fisherwoman’s story is not an attempt to represent one person’s story, but an amalgamation of several. David and Susie, the other characters in this scene, work for ASPS. Susie is David’s line manager. He’s in a probationary period after recently taking the job. Susie occasionally sits in on the interviews that David is conducting. He wants to be humane and sympathetic, but becomes increasingly compromised. When Susie offers advice to David towards the end of this scene – ‘Don’t let them tell you stories’ – she is not simply being brutally callous. She is giving voice to the impossibility of working in a situation where human beings with great dignity and courage (for it takes enormous courage to undertake the kind of journey that the Fisherwoman has made) are systematically treated as numbers. David and Susie are each struggling with their own demons. And despite trying not to let their personal history affect the way they interact professionally – with each other and with the people they are interviewing – they are working within a set of rules that undermines their own integrity as well as dehumanising the people they are trying to ‘process’. The issue of boundaries is one of the central concerns of the play, and is explored in several different ways. One of these is made visible in the staging: The stage is split into two distinct areas. On this side: the interview scenes and the dinner party !131

Profile for Border_Crossings

THE PROMISED LAND: Intercultural Learning with Refugees and Migrants  

Project e-book for THE PROMISED LAND - a cross-sectoral project funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union. The book explores...

THE PROMISED LAND: Intercultural Learning with Refugees and Migrants  

Project e-book for THE PROMISED LAND - a cross-sectoral project funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union. The book explores...

Advertisement