The word ‘refugee’, in today’s society, seems to carry with it a barrage of negative connotations. Fear, hatred and misconceptions have eaten away at our ability to feel compassion towards any persons seemingly ‘taking up space’ on our land. Now We Are Here strips back the biases and prejudices until all that is left are the people and their truths, leaving you no choice but to stop, listen and consider each individual story and the humans they belong to.
This raw and all too relevant production was written by four refugees, Desmond Jolly, Mir Ahmed, Michael Mugishangyezi and Tamara McFarlane, in collaboration with poet and spoken word artist Deanna Rodger, director Ian Rickson and Imogen Brodie. Their powerful stories are brought to life by four professional actors in a performance structured in two halves.
The first is a verbatim piece in which we learn of the oppression and persecution Desmond and Mir fled in the pursuit of freedom that led them to Britain, whilst Michael recants tales of life once arriving in the UK, moving from shelter to day centre with less than a bus fare to his name. The three sit on a bare stage, only moving to animate the most emotive chapters of their stories.
Although their tales are often brutal, one of the most powerful tools in this production are the elements of humour used to reflect upon the darker moments of their past. They serve to intensify the piece, reminding the audience that above the torment and suffering these people are fighting to survive, and an aspect of that means refusing to lose the things that make you human.
In the later section of the production the focus is on the sole story of a woman struggling with the realisation that her identity will not be accepted by the community she calls home. The strength and power of the delivery is in its simplicity. There are no props, no set, just a woman and her story of living in fear, loving in secret and hiding her true self to protect those she holds dear.
Now We Are Here runs at the Young Vic until 30 July. For more information and to book tickets visit the official website.