In 2016, PSYCHEdelight created Borderline, a successful satire of life in the Calais Jungle, devised and performed by an ensemble of European and refugee actors. Welcome to the UK is their follow up, a sequel to Borderline that employs the same approach, lampooning the experiences of asylum seekers when they finally make it across the channel.
It’s undoubtedly commendable work – these are important stories, told by important voices – but commendable work doesn’t always make for enjoyable theatre. Welcome to the UK comes from a good place, but it really isn’t very good at all.
The idea is conceptually strong – imagining the UK as a dementedly cheery fairground, and all the various obstacles thrown in front of asylum seekers as rides – but the execution is far too ramshackle, far too scattergun to capitalise.
We just get skit after toothless skit. An arranged marriage reworked as a haunted house. A rifle range where you shoot down immigrants’ dreams. A quiz show to decide who gets refugee status, conducted by a trill Theresa May. The whole thing is a rollercoaster ride of roughly thought-out sketches.
Sophie NL Besse’s production is just too roughshod to make much of an impact, despite the best efforts of the cast, but amid the mayhem, there is one particularly powerful image. Abdulrahman Salama, a Syrian refugee, waiting atop a step, holding is phone in silent anguish for news of his family – a stark reminder that underneath the froth, this really isn’t fun and games.