One of the most sought after plays in the contemporary theatre arena that depicts the abysmal plight of two million war and economic refugees from the Middle East, who have reached different European countries in search of a better life, was staged at the 10th International Theatre Festival of Kerala being held in Thrissur.
London-based Sophie Besse, the director of the play Borderline, has picked more than half of the actors in the play from a refugee camp called ‘Jungle’ in the northern port city of Calais in France near the UK border.
The play conveys to the audiences how the refugees from Syria, Sudan, Libya, Turkey and other Middle East countries devastated by the civil war reach the camps in Europe by putting their lives on the line and the discrimination they face at the camps in Europe.
“Many of the illegal refugees travel by the sea to reach Europe, some cross borders in frozen containers carried on the trucks and trains and after reaching Europe, they are subjected to terrible sufferings without being given proper shelter and facilities. They often have to brave the freezing temperatures out on the street at night,” the director says.
The play with the least number of properties presents the predicaments of the refugees with subtle use of light and rich imagery of properties like leftover shoes strewn on the stage, waving of polythene sheets used by the refugees during their boat journey to escaping the freezing climate and other simple stage installations.
“History is taking place in Europe and we can’t turn our backs at these refugees who are being treated as slaves and fear for their lives due to persecution in their homelands. It is a huge scandal that is taking place in Europe by the governments like that of Italy and France paying the oppressive regimes in the Middle East to prevent the flow of refugees to Europe,” says the director.
“The European governments that support the oppressive rulers in the Middle East for the sake of oil and other benefits need to be partly blamed for the catastrophe in the countries of the refugees and on the other hand they are shutting their borders to prevent them from reaching Europe,” she adds.
“My play calls for integration. It is the celebration of the talents of these refugees. I added humour to it as most of the plays dealing with the crisis are full of sadness and sorrow. The crew that consists of refugees and Europeans exemplifies that togetherness is possible,” Besse says.