Tim Cowbury and Mark Maughan in association with James Quaife Productions
Writer Tim Cowbury and director Mark Maughan create formally inventive plays that entertain and challenge audiences with slippery questions of power, politics and identity. They invite participants with experience of the play’s theme to be part of the creative process, alongside professional creatives.
Tim Cowbury co-founded Made In China, an innovative contemporary theatre company that has toured across the UK and to the Netherlands and the USA. He has led writing workshops for Arcola Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre.
Mark Maughan is a theatre director, maker and translator. He has been Associate Director of productions at venues including the National Theatre, Forest Fringe and Soho Theatre – and of a Ukrainian adaptation of The Pitman Painters via the British Council. He is a member of the Institut Français's Cross Channel Theatre group.
The Claim is based on first-hand experiences of the UK’s asylum decision system, including input from UNESCO. A comedy of misunderstandings on a theatre stage transforms into a tragically incompetent interview in which an interpreter and interviewer mangle an asylum seeker’s words. This is an accessible production which investigates the roles that language, rules, privilege and cultural difference play in sustaining prejudice. The creative team are keen to place it alongside international conversations about borders and migration. The production is being presented in-the-round in Edinburgh, but can also be performed in other configurations, including end-on.
The Claim is in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
In the press
“A taunt, funny but ultimately massively unsettling piece of work which is a stark and vital reminder of interpretation, viewpoint and how our black and white systems don’t make enough room for vulnerable people” WhatsOnStage
“A bold interrogation of the UK’s Kafkaesque asylum-system…makes us check our privilege in the best possible sense” Time Out
DesignerSet Designer: Emma Bailey Lighting Designer: Josh Pharo Sound Designer: Lewis Gibson
Number of people on stage3
Number of people in touring company5 (details available on request if engagement activities are required)
Information available on request
Touring AvailabilityFrom September 2019
Scale of venueSmall-scale (capacity up to 400)
Minimum performance space5.2m x 5m
Text-basedDense (important for audiences to have a good understanding of English)
Also contains:Strong Language
VenuePaines Plough Roundabout, Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL
Production dates31 JULY–25 AUGUST (not Tuesday 20 AUGUST)
Contact for touring
James Quaife Productions
The UK tour of The Claim involved a programme of bespoke ‘Take Part’ activities for diverse audiences to gain a deeper insight into the issues seen in the play. The company are keen to replicate as much of this offer as possible for international touring.
The company's programme was created and designed in collaboration with asylum seekers and refugees, who we met through our research and development process via the relationship they built with their migrant organisation partners, including GRAMNet, UNESCO, Freedom From Torture, Right To Remain and Counterpoints Arts.
By creating spaces for learning, reflection and action – all centred on the main production – the company connected with new audiences/participants to the arts sector, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, as well as having some to offer those already interested in or working as part of the arts.
Some examples from their ‘Taking Part’ programme:
-‘I Am Just My Words’ mixed media installation
“I am just my words” is a line from The Claim’s protagonist Serge and inspired an installation created by writers with refugee backgrounds that sat in the atrium of every venue the company visited. It was made in collaboration with Freedom From Torture’s ‘Write to Life’ creative writing group. Write to Life worked with Tim Cowbury and Mark Maughan to write and record personal testimonies. Whilst on tour, audiences met Elif, Hasani, Jade, Yami and Anonymous through picking up a pair of headphones and listened to their own stories and experiences of the Home Office’s substantive interview.
- ‘I don’t feel freedom’ – a practical workshop
The name of this workshop is a line taken from the play and was designed with UK migrant organisation Right To Remain. It is a practical and insightful workshop on the problems in the UK asylum process & how to prepare for them, run by Right To Remain. Participants in these workshops are from diverse demographics including asylum seekers, refugees, supporters of those going through the process and members of the general public. The company work in advance with each venue and with local organisations to recruit participants, spreading the word through those networks. Ticket deals are also brokered for those who also wish to watch the show after the workshop. Internationally, the company would look to work with groups who are similar in profile to Right To Remain to deliver a similar workshop about the asylum system in that country or if the interest remains on the UK system, they would work with Right To Remain to produce an international version of the workshop.
- Decompression spaces
The Decompression Space allows audiences and participants to find out more information on local migrant organisations, as well as facilitating a platform for further discussion. At each venue, the company have information materials on different local migrant organisations, often with members of those organisations on hand to answer questions.
- Post and pre-show discussions
The focus of these discussions is to allow people to carry on the debate directly after or just before the show, as well as connecting these words to action by making participants aware of people local to them who are taking action. These discussions are facilitated by the company's engagement producer and include a panel of people local to each city, to talk about their reflections on the piece and how their work or life experience is related to the subject matter. One or two members of the creative team often join the panel to answer audience questions. In London the company hosted a pre-show discussion with Detention Action’s Freed Voices, where again they as a team were able to take more of a back-seat role, which they felt appropriate.
- Legal surgeries
Having learnt through the research and development process that one of the basic needs that asylum seekers had was a lack of legal information, the company designed a space whereby lawyers could volunteer their time to drop into a legal surgery. In London they worked with Queen Mary University Law Clinic (QMULC) to deliver the session and they would aim to find a local partner in each country to make this happen.
- Tailored artistic workshops
Given the collective expertise of the company, they are able to offer artists (from emerging to mid career) as well as members of participatory companies, artistic workshops. Mark Maughan led workshops on making issue-based work for artists at different stages in their career, as well as a more practical session using Boal techniques to generate new material with participatory groups. Tim Cowbury delivered creative writing sessions including script work and if a venue were keen, would be happy to make a short performance that could be used as a curtain opener for The Claim or a separate in its own right. Once again, the company also are keen to link up with local organisations.