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September 27, 2013 4:21 pm
The less-than-riveting start to Vicky Featherstone’s first programmed season at the helm of the Royal Court (following the assorted wackiness of the summer’s “Open Court” season) continues, I regret to say. While Dennis Kelly says not very much about the corruptions of power on a fictional protagonist in his main-house show The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas , Rachel De-lahay in the upstairs studio is similarly unrevelatory about the realities of Britain’s immigration system.
The 65 minutes of Routes are occupied by 27 short, intercut scenes following the twin cases of Bashir, an 18-year-old of Somali birth whose indefinite leave to remain in the UK is revoked after he is convicted of a petty crime and who is then subjected to the kind of indefinite detention supposedly outlawed in 2004; and Femi, a Nigerian trying to return under a false identity to his family here after being deported following a drunk and disorderly conviction. The bridge between the storylines is Lisa, an unbending though not especially hardline immigration officer and the mother of Bashir’s friend Kola; in truth, though, there is no serious connection beyond a single line which Femi says to her and she then repeats to her son, “No good comes to anyone who is left on their own.”
The implication, I suppose, is that the bureaucratic/judicial machine leaves every one of its cases on their own in the deepest sense, notwithstanding the efforts of case workers such as Anka in the play. The impression left, though, is that these are structural defects rather than enormities. It may, of course, be an indictment both of the system and of our sensibilities as viewers that we simply do not get as exercised about such matters as we do about, say, government advertising vans with their in-as-many-words message of “Go Home” and the recent illegal immigrant fishing expeditions at railway stations and on streets in London (I mean not just that they are looking for illegal immigrants but that the operations themselves are illegal).
Nevertheless, I’m afraid that both dramatically and politically it all seems rather small beer. Simon Godwin’s production plays on a bare, abstract set which designer Paul Wills has surrounded with gratuitously uncomfortable seating; again, if this is intentional, it doesn’t work.
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