I went along to The Hub in Leeds to see Safe House, written and performed by Daniel Bye. It was a work in progress preview that tackled the political issue of borders and hostile nature of them. With politics taking an unexpected turn, from Trump’s Wall to the Great Wall of Calais, this play comes at an important time.
It has support from the Arts Council and a string of impressive commissioners such as Harrogate Theatre, Home Manchester and West Yorkshire Playhouse to name only a few. So you can say I had fairly high hopes going in.
Dubbed a political thriller, it investigated the emotional barriers used to protect ourselves, as well the physical borders built to segregate and separate. To represent this, barriers enclosed the stage and permission needed to be granted before entry.
This permission came often, as a sequence of interventions with audience members drove the play forward. Interestingly enough you had to fulfil a particular requirement before volunteering. Another requisite of border control. Are you positive? Do you have tenacity? With a fairly reluctant audience, Daniel persevered until someone caved.
A pattern soon emerged. The volunteer would be challenged to expose their thoughts and feelings on the initial question. Almost like therapy in action, while Dr Bye quietly assessed the responses. Then he gave them a simple task or sentence to repeat.
Like shining a light on a set of Jenga, as if a helicopter was circling a block of unstable flats or amplifying the sound of a fan to create an engine noise. This paired with a dramatic monologue shifted the atmosphere into something much darker. I particularly enjoyed when the audience became a collective character, conducting a ridiculous looping interrogation. This is something I experienced on a small-scale when flying to the US last year.
Admittedly, I found it hard to understand the narrative of this performance. It began almost like a discussion yet ended with a character who was fighting against some system. A lot was going on. But maybe he tried to be as unhinged as the world he created?
It did have many light moments too, as Daniel was likeable and naturally funny when engaging with people. He handled a challenging audience very well and responded to their opinions with wit and charm. This will add a certain amount of danger as every performance is unpredictable.
I am not the most politically minded person but Safe House did challenge me to stop and consider the, often ludicrous, idea of borders and barriers. It really was exciting to partake in this audience driven piece. I just hope a clearer narrative is born as he perfects and performs these previews.
Catch it at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 under the new title Instructions for Border Crossing.
Do check out my five reasons to visit Slung Low in The HUB! And subscribe to my YouTube channel whilst you’re there.
Image Credit: Wikipedia