You would think that our current political climate would be a golden opportunity for theatre makers, but it has taken a while for Brexit to impact Fringe theatre in a big way. For that reason, it is particularly interesting to see what refugee ensemble, Borderline, formed by theatre company PSYCHEdelight, has to offer.
Made up of thirteen different countries, it is exciting to see how these voices can help shape the conversation around Brexit and the stigma surrounding immigration in this country. However, the story that unfolds is a mis-matched, unclear and two-dimensional one. It’s clear that thirteen people have been involved in the devising process, which perhaps explains the messy nature and indecisive style.
We’re thrown into a wacky circus theme with a bolshy ring master and Theresa May adorned in a rainy British cloud headdress while playing a harpsichord – both of which act as the barriers to entry throughout. We follow a variety of refugee stories, all based on their real lives. The most engaging of these is most probably Mohand’s, who dreams of becoming an actor but ends up working for Deliveroo. There’s a funny, playful scene where he gets the opportunity to play Romeo – there’s something about Mohand’s zest for life and comic timing that is instantly likeable and warm.
Nevertheless, the movement work throughout the play feels clunky and unrehearsed – as a play, it relies heavily on live music and dance, both of which seem quite poorly devised. The gags around Theresa May’s awkward zombie-dance to ABBA are amusing, but I can’t help but feel that this play only scrapes the surface – you don’t feel enough for the characters and their plight.
The use of a bingo game and a gypsy fortune teller deciding on the fates of these people is a clever play on the fickle nature of the system, and is probably the best use of the classic theatrical phenomenon of the showy “in yer face” style conflicting with a serious topic. There are glimmers where you can tell that their thoughts are in the right place, it just doesn’t quite hit the mark.
This is an honourable cause, and it’s clear that PSYCHEdelight have good intentions, but it is difficult to recommend watching this play until it has gone through some more development.