Imagine coming under such ferocious interrogation about your private life that the questions start to wheedle their way into your relationship. Such is the case for Abidemi and Omolade in this two-hander about a Nigerian couple seeking asylum in the UK on the grounds of sexual persecution.
As playwright Vlad Butucea tells it, the string of Home Office interviews seeks to establish their relationship in ways that go well beyond their simple attraction to each other. Seeming more prurient than purposeful, they ask for intimate details of their gender identity, sexual history and, especially weirdly, how religion fits in with all of this.
And the effect is only to add to the pressure on Ewa Dina as the extrovert Abidemi, who likes nothing more than to live it up in a nearby gay club, and Antonia Layiwola as the cautious and pragmatic Omolade, who would rather get on with the quiet life of an artist. The club itself becomes a source of contention after Omolade is refused entry for not seeming to meet the gender requirements. “They ask more questions than the bloody Home Office,” she says, a woman forever forced to conform to the expectations of others.
The probing of some anonymous official turns into doubt and uncertainty
Back in their temporary accommodation on the 17th floor of a Glasgow tower block, they internalise the Home Office’s questions. Why did they end up together? How well do they know each other? The probing of some anonymous official turns into doubt and uncertainty, pulling them apart. “What does a woman like you see in a woman like me?” asks Abidemi.
Directed for Pearlfisher by Mojisola Elufowoju on a drab and literal set by Jen McGinley, the play contrasts the official account the women must give of themselves – schooled by an immigration expert called Ugo – with the messier although no less deserving lives they actually live. Every so often in the supposedly spontaneous videos they film as evidence of their loving relationship, the facade slips to reveal something of the cruel world they are desperately trying to flee.
If the play feels more like a sketch than an expansive drama, it is nonetheless a sad and sorry snapshot of those forced to conform to the standards of others.