The Young Vic in Association with Amnesty International
The camera pans inside a predominantly dark, metal container on the back of a truck. (Lighting for this production is wonderful.) A young, skinny white man listens at the door. We hear voices before we see anyone. “What’s happened?” “Are we stopped?” There’s palpable fear in the air. Not everyone whispers. Not everyone is still. Shushhhhh! Silence is life or death.
These refugees have paid all they own to be transported through the Balkan Mountains to England. Promised by “the agent” to be given water and food, none has been received since they began three or four days ago. What was privately sequestered is almost gone. It’s hot and, except for flashlights, black. The space stinks.
The door opens, everyone hides. Another woman enters. She’s clearly unwell and vomits. An Afghan businessman is fearful of getting sick and imperiously demands she clean it up. Aisha, a young, naive Black woman helps, despite her domineering aunt’s objections.
“Where’s the agent?” “Did they give you food?” “He was supposed to let us out now and then.” The new woman Miriam, says they’ve reached Northern Italy. She has a little bread, a little chocolate meant for the trip and freely shares. When they sleep, Aisha tries to make friends with Miriam. The girl has a letter to the Queen of England in hopes of becoming her well treated servant. Her aunt treats her poorly like one now. “In England you can go to school and learn to write your own letter,” Miriam says. She’s educated.
Inhabitants pick at one another. The white man, who’s Kurdish, once lived in England. His wife and baby are there. This is his third attempt to get back having slept in cardboard boxes in Calais. Aisha’s aunt is going to her son who she insists has a fine job, yet tried to convince her not to come. The businessman is joining family. Miriam has no one left at home having seen them all killed. She’s running for her life. Most of what we learn is from observation.
The agent, who, full of rationalizations, insists he’s on their side, comes with water but says everyone must pay another $50 because the driver insists. He’ll leave them there otherwise – and they’re so close! The scene is chilling as is water-from-stones negotiation. Who gives what and why is a microcosm of human character pressed to the limit. There’s begging, excuses, a fight, tears. Secrets come out. Selfishness pervades. Something untenable occurs.
“The next time we stop, we’ll be in England.” Instructions are given. They must protect the agent if questioned. The truck stops. “Are we in the train now?” “I can’t feel us moving.” “Are we here?” The question remains.
Beautifully written, directed, acted, and shot. Highly recommended.
All Photos Courtesy of Young Vic
The Container by Clare Bayley
Directed by Tom Wright
Designed by Noomi Dawson
With Amber Agar, Doreene Blackstock, Abhin Galeya, Mercy Ojelade, Hassani Shapi, Chris Spyrides
This production was captured by Digital Theatre live inside a real shipping container parked outside London’s Young Vic Theatre.
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