The Container: Refugees Fighting to Survive

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The Container, by Clare Bayley, tells the story of a group of asylum seekers being smuggled across Europe, to England, in a shipping container. The performance took place outside the Young Vic Theatre in a real shipping container. I viewed the performance via Digial Theatre Plus (though seeing it live in the container would have been much cooler).

Written By: Zackarya Faci

The performance recounts the hardships of five refugees as they are smuggled across Europe. They discuss their backgrounds, visions of what England will be like, and even get on each others nerves. They fight over what little food and water they have–thinking one is more deserving based on the struggles they have lived through in the past. Though it makes sense that they would be so easily agitated, since they are confined together in such a small space.

The use of such a small space was impressive. The audience was comprised of a mere 28 people–making the performance that much more intimate. I was surprised how they were able to fit the actors, audience, and recording equipment all into such a small space; the actors made use of what little space they had. Unlike other performances where the scenes would consistently change, the audience is constantly reminded of how cramped and desperate the individuals are. The lighting also added to this effect as all the light came from flashlights alone; the eerie lighting highlighted the uncertainty of their future.

Having watched the performance digitally, I feel like I was missing out on key aspects that made the performance shine. Being so close to the actors and locked in the same space gives a sense of presence–almost as though the audience is part of those seeking asylum. Feeling awkward among the actors would help build upon that uncertainty the performance is based on. That being said, the performance ended with a cliffhanger that does not reveal the fate of the characters. I like this since it allows the audience to come up with their own ending and envision how they would have ended up in that scenario.

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