If, like me, you watched the alarming Channel 4 Dispatches documentary in which Liz MacKean interviewed the vigilante gangs currently hunting and beating gay people for sport, you will realise how imperative it is that these issues gets wider publicity.


If, like me, you watched it at bedtime and spent a wakeful hour wondering how it would feel if you had to get up several times in the night to check the doors and windows were bolted, or if a heavy footfall in the corridor might herald your arrest or torture, you will realise how frightening could be the spread of this attitude beyond Russia, and how vital it is that international efforts are made to combat it.

Drama has a part to play, and the premiere of Michael Yale’s taut and tense play although written a year or so ago is opportunistically timed as world media focuses on Sochi and Putin’s propaganda Olympics. It blends the interrogation of a young gay Russian blogger with an insight into the UK asylum process and invites the audience to question its own reactions to minority rights and public opinion.

It’s well-scripted and paced and largely escapes cliche and stereotyping with naturalistic dialogue and credible characterisation. The violent incidents are convincingly portrayed particularly through Andrew Young’s performance as the UK asylum claimant after escaping torture in St Petersburg, and the pivotal character in the piece. Other strong performances include Frank Teale as the blogger Alik, and Ben Scheck wholly authentic as the male enforcement officer at the UK asylum centre.

Interrogation scenes in the Russian prison are a shade more predictable: you might question whether a thuggish OMOH special services investigator would tease his prisoner quite as conversationally as a Bond villain, and if you’re going to administer a kicking as punishment, wouldn’t you wear boots rather than trainers?

I hope the play has life beyond its week’s run at the Tristan Bates, it certainly deserves a wider audience: adjustments might include a snappier title because the folk tale to which it refers is never connected to the narrative, making the shift-weary asylum officer a significantly older woman or gay man whose suspicions would then seem more intuitive as well as reinforcing his/her anxiety to get home in time for Britain’s Got Talent, and testing the likelihood of a very young duty solicitor taking the initiative to provide a fake character witness.

An engaging piece. An important subject. Bravo.

Remote GoatOriginally published on RemoteGoat.com