I agreed to produce a piece of work for Detention Action that could be used to persuade their supporters to campaign for a change in the government’s policy on indefinite detention.
Detention Action’s message was simple enough, ‘indefinite detention (of migrants) doesn’t work:… it’s immoral‘. Finding a way of delivering the complexities of this message orally, and there were many, was a little less simple.
Some very serious human rights issues that relate to the government’s policy on detaining migrants indefinitely were raised. These needed to be considered and where appropriate dealt with in the oral performance created.
How to interpret and portray the key issues in a way that was both powerful and achieved maximum impact was going to be a challenge.
My naivety1 when creating a piece of work is an advantage. The less I know when I start the work the better. If I don’t understand what you’re trying to say why would your audience?
Detention Action provided the background information and, a request, that there be ‘no talking heads please’!
The source material on this occasion was William’s life threatening experience at the hands of Charles Taylor’s army and at the hands of the UK Government’s detention programme. For him they were comparably traumatic.
In order to reconcile personal vulnerabilities with the need to perform I created a ‘script’ in the form of a letter written by William an ex-detainee to Jane a support worker provided to him by Detention Action. A letter which can be and is often read retrospectively2. The letter was designed to appear like one written at the end of a very difficult period highlighting William’s unsuccessful struggle to survive – emotionally, intellectually and physically, in an environment where, after more than 3 years, he had no release date.
‘Detention, deportation or death… I can’t think… do I have a choice.’
‘I wanted to say… you have been a kind friend.’
William is saying goodbye to Jane because he can no longer go on living in fear and without hope at the hands of the UK Government. www.detentionaction.org.uk