“At times I’ve felt like an investigative journalist, and at other times as though I was embarking on a weird journey of personal enlightenment…”
Removal Men is my first show as an assistant director and already has been filled with plenty of brand new experiences. In researching some of the themes and content for this show at times I’ve felt like an investigative journalist, and at other times as though I was embarking on a weird journey of personal enlightenment…
The research for this play began years ago by writer Mike, director Jay, and the rest of the creative team. When I came on board in June this year, my job was to create research packs for the actors ahead of rehearsals. The play is set in a fictional Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), and so the focus of my research has been into the UK’s detention estate. Until I got involved in the show, I had no idea the tools used for ‘immigration control’. People can be legally held for an unlimited amount of time in an IRC and people can also be detained whilst their claim for asylum is processed. I’ve told pretty much everyone I know since.
I looked into some of the global private companies who manage IRCs, through decade long contracts outsourced by the Home Office. Looking into their annual accounts, business models and finding job adverts for vacancies within the IRCs made me feel a little bit like a detective or an investigative journalist!
I also researched the basics of Non-Violent Communication (NVC). A big theme in the play is therapy. Mike questions why does it seem easier to go to a therapist than a protest nowadays. The show explores the American-born model of NVC and uses it to question if it’s possible for individuals to try and operate with freedom within such a strict system, like working as a Detention Custody Officer in an Immigration Removal Centre.
A further extension of these therapeutic practices I’ve researched, was dance therapy and meditation to explore trance-like states. Jay and Mike were interested in the possibility of the actors performing elements of the show in a ‘trance’ state, and I was tasked to explore practises that might be useful in rehearsals. I experienced meditation, chanting and being told to breathe through my sex organs for the first time in a Kundalini Yoga class, and found myself at 5 Rhythms in a beautiful church in North London, dancing non-stop for 2 hours with 40 strangers. I’ve never meditated before and am a bit of a cynic if I’m honest. I kept picturing that Rainbow Rhythms scene in Peep Show. (There was actually a man in the class in a suit who gave it a crack but left half way through. Think he was there by accident.) Despite my cynicism, it was actually pretty great. There were moments of complete release where I was moving without any awareness of my limbs and I forgot about any shit I had to do that week, even the purpose of my being there, to be honest!
I was chatting about some of the things I’d been looking into at the pub a friend said “It’s amazing that you’re juggling three shows”, I was like – no no, they’re all for the same play!” The uniqueness this mix gives a bit of an insight into the uniqueness of the beast of a show Mike and Jay have created with Removal Men.
Removal Men: 8 Nov- 10 Dec
Tickets from £10