Bogus play a genuine winner

The Bogus Woman
The Bogus Woman

The Bogus Woman, Dukes Theatre, Lancaster. Various Lancashire dates

While politicians may seek to outbid each other for the human rights high ground amid Europe’s current refugee frenzy, this play lays bare the inhuman plight of a single asylum seeker.

The remarkably timely revival of Kay Adshead’s disturbing and inevitably bleak Bogus Woman is also a potent reminder of the power of drama to occasionally invoke the same strength of feeling as a front-page news photograph.

The one-woman production was first performed at Keswick’s Theatre by The Lake seven years ago, selling out every night, and actress Krissi Bohn went on to cement her reputation with the role of Jenna Kamara in Coronation Street for three years.

She returns to the play here for the start of an extensive UK tour which takes it back to Keswick in November. Bohn portrays more than 50 characters including the central figure of a young African woman, left stranded and alone after fleeing her home country, but who is then trapped and dehumanised in the bureaucratic and all-too-often cruel machinery of officialdom.

In around 85 minutes soldiers, immigration officials, detention centre staff, fellow asylum seekers, do-gooders, lawyers – and many more – may fly by, but leave an indelible impression.

And it’s all set in 1997, at a time when things could only get better...

Adshead boldly mixes fact into fiction to devise a play that literally screams for your attention. There are references to actual locations among the detention centres where asylum seekers are held and the horrifying treatment meted out, both at home and abroad, becomes all too easily imaginable in scenes that are particularly harrowing.

It is a major accomplishment for a young and dynamic actress, and is a performance that is neatly bordered by Jo Dawson’s lighting, Matt Hall’s sound design and Sophia Lovell Smith’s minimal set.

Catch it wherever you can.

David Upton