I cannot believe that the entire administration and operation of the British political asylum system is as rootedly racist and contemptuous of those caught within it as Kay Adshead's portrayal in The Bogus Woman – not because it seems implausible, but because if I did accept such a catalogue of oppression and degradation, I would no longer be able to live in this country. Denial like mine, though, is itself one strand of Adshead's picture; she has thoroughly researched her material, and maintains that the incidents she has written of here are not the worst she has encountered.
Noma Dumezweni gives a potent, fully controlled performance as an African poetess and sometime dissident journalist who, after her own rape and the murder of her family, flees on false documents to Britain, suffers indignities and casual torment at Campsfield and Tinsley House asylum centres, at best patronised by other parties, and when granted temporary residence is unsurprisingly unable to live on the deplorable voucher allocation. The aspect of poetry allows Adshead to overwrite every so often, but this production by The Red Room and Mamo Quillo is, perversely, a breath of fresh air in a theatrical climate which seems to have forgotten about accomplished agitprop.
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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