ANYONE who has even a passing interest in the news cannot fail to have seen and heard about refugees who flee their homelands to find safety from such horrors as war, persecution or poverty.
But what is it really like to be a refugee? Normally we don’t see or hear about the individual stories of those who make the journey to what they hope is a better life.
But now a piece of verbatim theatre which has been created by individual refugees in collaboration with award winning poet and spoken word artist Deanna Rodger does just that.
Staged at the Young Vic and comprising two 45-minute acts it is performed by four actors who take on the role of the four very different refugees to tell their true stories of fleeing war and persecution and how they try to integrate into an alien culture.
In the first, we hear the painful and heartbreaking stories of three men - Desmond, Mir and Michael - played by Gary Beadle, Manish Gandhi and Jonathan Livingstone - who all claim refugee status in the UK.
Desmond has escaped the homophobia he experiences in Jamaica, Mir leaves Pakistan to escape his father and younger brother who beat him because he is gay and imprisoned him in a mental hospital and Michael who found himself in an East African prison.
Although they don’t know each other and their stories are not linked, the men talk and interact with one another and also the audience throughout the piece.
Each has a powerful story - in particular, Michael moving from hostel to hostel and walking an hour and a half to the day centre because he doesn’t have the bus fare and Mir who is subjected to rejection by his father and then brutal beatings because of his sexuality.
The second half sees Golda Rosheuval tell the story of a 14-year-old Jamaican girl, Tamara McFarlane, who falls in love with a 15-year-old girl who moves to the area with her twin sister. Starting as friends the two girls experience first love and eventually share “tutti frutti kisses” in secret. But the fear of being lynched is ever present - not least thanks to the horrific murder of a 14 year old boy for being gay which Tamara witnesses when she is nine. So when the village busy body confronts Tamara with questions about her friendship with the girl, Tamara panics and ends the relationship.
Beautifully acted, the stories are brutally honest, heartbreaking, poignant, funny, sad, frank, intense and at times difficult to listen to. In short they are compelling viewing and a must see.
Now We Are Here is on at the Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo until Saturday, July 30. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance. Donations to the Young Vic’s three charities, Micro Rainbow International, Room to Heal and NNLS Destitute Asylum Seekers Drop In, are welcome. Visit www.youngvic.org or call the box office on 020 7922 2922.