As I walked into Corpus on Sunday afternoon to sit in on a tech rehearsal for Rights Of Passage, it struck me that it wasn’t abundantly clear who was an actor and who was a director. For the first five minutes I sat in the darkness at the back of a bank of seating, watching a group of people discuss how best to light a scene, and how to adjust their blocking to fit with the very precise and detailed lighting design set up by Irma Franz and Emma Pruin. It was not until they actually began running the scene that it became clear who was who, but when they did, the precision and clarity of the actors’ performances, both naturalistic from the protagonist of the scene, and with stylised elements from the chorus, was truly remarkable.
It’s clear that this production has been a collaborative process from the beginning, and this is something which director Sneha Lala and associate director (and Oxcam President) Miriam Quinn have really endeavoured to carry on throughout the development of their production.
‘This production was really born out of a conversation which Sneha and I had,’ Quinn told me. ‘It’s really part of our overall mission with Oxcam- we’re aiming to use lots of different ways to get people involved in Oxcam who might not necessarily be the kind of people who would take the time to go to an Oxcam meeting. And what better way of telling the stories of [refugees] than verbatim theatre?’
Written by Clare Summerskill, the play is a series of verbatim accounts of real LGBT+ asylum seekers, who came to the UK hoping to find safety and acceptance, but were instead confronted with yet more obstacles. Given the current state of political affairs concerning both LGBT+ people and refugees, Lala tells me that she feels this is an important play to be putting on at this moment in time.
‘The refugee crisis has been going on for so long now, and doesn’t show any signs of improving any time soon. All these targets for how many asylum seekers can enter a country, they’re not actually designed to help people who are dying, they’re there to protect “the UK economy”, as abstract a concept as that is. In the eyes of many, refugees are just statistics, not people, a lot of the time. What we’re really focused on here is giving a platform to the hidden voices of these people.’
Rights of Passage looks set to be one of the most important, moving and technically proficient pieces of theatre to be put on in Cambridge this term.