The Scene: One of the many extremely awkward conversations you have with a semi-stranger whose name you’ve forgotten in the courtyard of Summerhall, Edinburgh (when the hour is too early for wine).
OH HIIIIIIIIIIIII. Howareyouwhathaveyoubeenseeingwasitgood?
Oh, HEEEaaay…. [vowels fade out of existence like a dying firework].
Umm yeah, I was at Roundabout seeing a show called The Claim. It’s about this guy called Serge (Ery Nzaramba) who is /
The Blame? That sounds cool. What’s it about?
Umm.. The Claim, actually, sorry – it ‘s called The Claim. Sorry. Anyway, sorry, it’s about a man named Serge who has come to the UK from the Congo via Uganda and is trying to claim asylum in Britain. He’s living in Stre… /
Awww… how sad. How awful. That sounds so sad. I can’t cope with watching sad stuff.
Mmmm… I mean, it’s actually really funny in a lot of places. Like not funny in a ha-ha way, but funny in a sort-of ‘it’s so awful because it’s true’ way and also just funny in a funny way because there’s this really, really annoying translator (played by Nick Blakeley) who fancies his co-worker (played by Emmanuella Cole) and he /
UGH. Like Tom. Gross. He is such a perve.
Ha.. um.. yeah. Grim. Anyway, so the translator is meant to be helping Serge to tell his story to his colleague, but he actually gets sent out of the room for quite a long time. So Serge, who they keep calling Sele, is in fact trying to tell his story in a language he doesn’t know.
What language does he speak?
It’s actually never shown because his conversations with the translator are in English and so are the ones with the other person and /
/ So he just speaks English then?
Well no, I mean, he’s speaking another language most of the time but thanks to like, the magic of theatre, we can just listen to that conversation in English but /
/ What’s the problem if he speaks English? Why is there a translator?
Because like he’s not speaking English, it’s just performed in English but we know that sometimes he’s actually speaking another language to the translator and because it’s all in English we can tell that what he says to the translator and what the translator says to the colleague he’s hitting on isn’t the same thing.
Like the translator lies?
Not exactly. He just kind of embellishes or changes slightly what is being said or maybe it’s more that he can’t really hear what Serge is saying because he’s already kind of assumed what he thinks is being said. And because he’s weird around his female colleague, every time she suggests something, he just goes along with it, even though he should be able to know that’s really not what Serge is saying.
So he’s like telling the story of all the really bad stuff that happened to him?
Kind of. Weirdly, he never gets that far. He starts talking about his father reading him a bedtime story and then within, kind of like five moves on a chess board, he’s having to defend himself against this huge accusation and /
Oh! So that’s the blame thing! Like because he’s not to blame but they think he is to blame and
No. It’s not called The Blame. Sorry. It’s actually called The Claim. Sorry. The CL-aaaymmm. Because he’s claiming asylum and /
So who is to blame then?
CLAIM! It’s not called The Blame! It’s The CLAIM! But I mean… I guess it kind of is about blame. I guess the blame for all of it is on, you know, institutionalised racism and internalised prejudices and the massive biases people have, and the terribleness of the UK asylum application system, which automatically starts treating people like criminals before they are. I guess also the blame kind of lies with a lot of people in the room watching as well (including me), in the sense that if you don’t do anything about this, or you exist in this place as a legal citizen and never really bother to even think about how badly the system treats people, let alone try to make it better, then I guess you are also to blame. Although it doesn’t feel like a play that’s angrily pointing fingers. In fact, underneath all those jokes it sort of seems… really fucking sad. And exhausted at all this bollocks.
Ah. Cool. The Blame. I’m gonna go see that.
The Claim is on at Summerhall as part of the 2019 Edinburgh fringe. More info and tickets here.