On the Grace of Officials is a dark comedy set in an asylum seeker detention centre. It’s about death, suffering and the logic behind the bureaucratic machine. At the centre of the play are encounters between people, and the freedom to talk about oneself freely. A Woman Who Has Lost Everyone lives in this institution led by a well-meaning bureaucrat, Big Brother. A spirited lawyer comes to work in the institution wishing to save The Woman regardless of the sacrifices that it will take.
Perfomed by the Theatre of New Writing at HYPRTXT Festival Hub in Australia 14-28 June 2014, especially for Refugee Week.
"It's 30 years since 1984. So what's Big Brother doing now?"
2 F, 4 M + 1 adult, 1 child, a choir. Available: FIN, ENG
Welcome. My name is Fridtjof Nansen and tonight I will be your guide. For those of you who don't know, I am a historical figure, one of the great ones in fact: the most reckless and well-known explorer of my time. They say, that if my ship couldn't continue on because of ice, I abandoned it and continued on foot – almost all the way to the North Pole – and one should recall that this was back in the 19th century. From those days comes my most often quoted statement: To his sleigh dogs, no man is a hero. During the 20th century I moved into politics and began to do humanitarian work, first in Russia, then in Armenia and Greece.
The reason why I am the guide of this particular play, is because I founded the whole international asylum system. In the 1920's I fought the famine in Siberia and began giving out so-called Nansen passports to those whom I felt could no longer live in Russia. People who had this kind of passport with my name on it were accepted into Europe. During the last years of my life I was given the Nobel peace prize for my efforts. Eventually I died at home in Norway, silently grieving the fact that I hadn't done any scientific research worth mentioning.
This play takes place in a blind spot. The setting is a carefully cut out piece of the world, where laws no longer exist. In the play it is referred to as Depo, the Detention Center. Some refugees who have sought asylum are being held in the Detention Center. Let's call them gate-crashers. A person can get locked up in Depo if they enter the country without a passport, or if a decision has been made to deport them back to their home country and the police fear that the person might disappear before the deportation can take place. In effect, Depo is a prison: you can't leave, you can't have any money or sharp objects, the rooms are inspected every day and so on. No one knows when they'll get out, or where they would be taken then. In this place life goes on without any rights – by the grace of the officials.
But that's that for the facts. Now for the play. Its central characters are a woman who has lost everyone, a lawyer, an official, a woman of the highest authority and quite a large number of dead people. In the first scene the official is working. The scenes are fictional, except for the bits that actually happened. Welcome.
Translated from Finnsh by Heidi Soidinsalo