Still Here

Rachel Partington

Theatre For Justice

ZOO at St Mary's South Lawn

From 03 August 2016 to 24 August 2016

Rating: ***

Review by Keith Mckenna

A steady stream of individuals and organisations from Britain regularly visit the refugee camp in Calais. Despite a hostile climate created by politicians and the media, there are churches, trade unions, theatre companies and political activists who carry food to the refugees and return with stories of people desperate for sanctuary.

A few weeks before Christmas 2015, Rachel Partington made the trip with four friends and turned what she experienced into the play Still Here which is performed in a cold tent in the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral.

It takes the form of two monologues. Rachel tells the story of the trip and the people she meets, including an Eritrean man (Afolabi Alli) who gives his own account of the journey to the camp.

Rachel arrives awkward looking for the Christian Church. She is impressed by the hospitality and resourcefulness of those she meets. She is carrying Christmas cards, many of which she decides to give as fuel to a couple of men trying to keep warm by a small flagging fire.

An Eritrean man agrees to have his story recorded and describes walking nine days through a dangerous desert, followed by a perilous sea journey in a boat with 530 other people. It took him six years to reach Calais.

The play is believable, performances are clear and convincing. There are visually striking scenes of a boat and train journey. However only the monologue of Afolabi Alli has any dramatic tension.

In February 2016, Rachel returned to find police had cleared the Church and Mosque, moving the people she had earlier spoken to.

At one point in the play, two puppets are used to emphasise the way refugees are denied a voice as well as sanctuary. Theatre For Justice is doing its small part to help remedy that situation with this play.