Thursday, July 18

Tender – HOME Mcr

Supported by Arts Council, England and Derby Theatre, Tender emerged as the new production for Phosphoros Theatre, a London based company running theatre projects for refugees aged 16-25.

Featuring young performers from Iraq, Eritrea, Chad, Albania and Ethiopia the work began development in 2021 and is playing at Home, Manchester this week.

Given the changes to the Illegal Migration Act and the very recent passing of the disturbing Rwanda Bill it is a timely opportunity to highlight the stories of the young refugees that find themselves between a rock and a hard place with no safety net, no right to work and understandable deep concerns about how they build a future for themselves.

Phosphoros Theatre have invited young refugees and artists from around the UK to contribute material; they run cast led drama workshops with refugee youth groups and offer discounted or free tickets for refugees at every performance and this is to be applauded. It is important work to allow voices to be heard and for stories to be told and one would hope greater understanding and empathy to be developed for what can be a divisive, politically charged and misrepresented topic. I just didn’t feel that the story presented to the audience at HOME last night managed to do this.

By focussing on Ilyas, a friend of the group of young refugee students, who turns 18, loses all the protection of youth and is forced to go underground in order to survive, the drama attempts to highlight the genuine threat becoming an adult creates for young refugees.

Ilyas is never seen, only ever spoken of and in some sense that does add to a sense of vulnerability. The whole piece is presented in the third person which I found a strange decision. There is nothing more compelling than first person testimony – this is what happened to me, this is my experience, this is what I know and what to share with you. There on stage in front of us where five engaging, hard-working and energetic young performers, each with a story to tell yet little was woven into the script resulting in a narrative that was flimsy and missed great opportunities.

Using physical theatre/ensemble style mixed in with naturalistic narrative, the actors used the space and symbolic set well, but direction lacked imagination and nuance.

Tender: young in age and experience; soft, gentle and loving; painful, sore and vulnerable; coins or banknotes exchanged for service; a small boat from a big boat carrying people to land. Tender has multiple meanings and uses including something not fully made. For me, this piece of theatre was not yet fully made, but I think it is important that it has been made, that it has been supported and I hope that the project continues to develop and grow and that the stories that come from it truly connect.

Reviewer: Lou Kershaw

Reviewed: 9th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.