Not only is it transcending borders as a co-production between migrant-led theatre companies BEZNA Theatre and Giuvlipen but Sînziana Cojocarescu's How To Break Out Of A Detention Centre also utilises a wide spectrum of artistic tools. From eerie projections to moody soundscapes and cryptic poetry, the show directed by Nico Vaccari unites powerful storylines and raw humanity as one.

Four actors perpetually fill the stage, each of them bringing to the performance their own artistic style, personality and migrant background. Two of them (Zita Moldovan and Alaa Taha) portray detainees – victims of the immigration system who have never crossed the threshold of misconduct. They come from different countries and have different stories to tell, yet their frustration with the unjust system is the same. After an initial detachment, the detention centre's nurse (Mihaela Dragan) and its warden (Lizzie Clarke) whom each have their understanding of loss, connect to the two migrant women through their emotional pain and call for change.

How to Get Out of a Detention Centre – aside from its multi-visual artistic style – thrives through the humanisation of its characters. While discussing painful memories of trauma and loss, it seeks a genuineness and unrequited connection with its seemingly powerless
characters. At first disjointed, the story finds its union through the natural development of each character's story arch. Cues planted in the beginning are picked up and one-by-one puzzle pieces are put together to reveal the full picture of unjustly dehumanised persons slowly deteriorating into helplessness.

Bloody messages are smeared onto the white floor and haunting projections of past injustices in the UK's legal system make for an impactful and intense experience. However, the one thing that radiates from the space is the connection between the four women. While each of the fights their own battles, the thing that keeps reuniting them is their support for each other and the determination with which they won't let the world break them.

Not everything in Vaccari's show seems to make sense and some moments never find their place within the overarching performance but the audience remains entertained throughout with fragments of physical theatre, intimate projections from a handheld camera and child-like drawings of the destruction and reclaiming of “home”.

How To Break Out of A Detention Centre is a difficult play to watch – not only for its dark and shocking content but also for its earnest and intimate performances which keep the audience captivated and sat in deafening silence for 90 minutes.

It runs until 8 March.


Review: Shirley Both            Photo: Héctor Manchego