Challenging Narratives: Immersive Practices and the Representation of the Refugee Experience in Clare Bayley’s The Container


  • Francesca Forlini Roma Tre



First performed inside a container lorry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2007, Clare Bayley’s The Container takes an unconventional approach to altering British perceptions of the refugee crisis, bespeaking the changing reality of migration histories. By looking at the major challenges faced by theatre makers in representing the refugee experience, this article seeks to reflect on the relatively recent turn towards immersive and participatory practices witnessed by contemporary British theatre. It does so by discussing the major challenges faced by theatrical representations of the refugee experience examining the primary issues that arise when attempting to present or represent the refugee experience on stage. How does contemporary British theatre complicate stereotyped media representations of forced migrants? How can it renovate our understanding of the global refugee crisis? Drawing upon studies such as Emma Cox’s Theatre & Migration (2014) and Alison Jeffers Refugees, Theatre and Crisis: Performing Global Identities (2011), this contribution reflects on the increasing attention towards issues of displacement and migration as manifested by the most recent proliferation of community drama workshops, refugee festivals and grand scale productions in the UK, arguing that refugee theatre can serve as a valuable space for real life’s institutional and extra-institutional encounter, fostering understanding and cohesion and bringing about real change.

Keywords: immigrant theatre; refugee theatre; site-specificity; The Container; Clare Bayley