Theatre for Development Facilitator
Send Them All Back
Britain isn’t working and something has to be done. The government, after getting unprecedented political consensus, has instructed that all the people in Britain who aren’t British have to go. Especially if they’re European. As the ferry companies line up to take the government contracts to ship the immigrants back to the continent, power- and responsibility- shifts to Britain’s new city mayors who have to make sure all the people and political pieces still fit together.
William Jameson, Mayor of Dubris, gets busy carving out his legacy while rubbish piles up in the streets, millennials rail against the jobs their given and the inter-web revels in every missed opportunity and blunder that happens. A married British/French couple have to leave their home and flee to Scotland for safety rather than face being treated like cattle on the ferries. As the Europeans leave and Britain seizes up, Mayor Jameson raises his voice in the vacuum, pleading for his Europeans to come back. Shocked and appalled, his advisors assume it’s the end of his career, but then the fog horns of hope blare in the distance- the Europeans hear the call.
Hoping against hope, all eyes turn to the channel and as the ferries land, their doors opening an unimaginable sight confronts the world- Europe’s sent all of the British emigrants and ex-pats back to Blighty.
Suddenly a refugee crisis of British voters is on Mayor Jameson’s doorstep and he, and his fellow mayors, have to act quickly. Order has to be found. A mouthpiece in the emigrant rabble that can be reasoned with. John- desperately trying to find his wife- takes the dubious honour. After the horse-trading, the deals roll into the action- the returners get food and shelter if they do all the jobs the British Remainers refused to do. But with those jobs that keep the wheels turning comes power and opportunity. It doesn’t take long for the returning Brits to start harvesting crops which they stockpile, to start digging up roads that cause massive tailbacks. This Britain still isn’t working and the returners have a solution- give us the reins. Boxed into a corner, and with all of Dubris baying for his blood, Mayor Jameson reluctantly gives up his role as all the other mayors across Britain are having to do to these British interlopers.
The experiment is ended. The world is much the same. Britain still isn’t working.
Send Them All Back is rooted in its origin as a very loose adaptation of Douglas Turner Ward’s play Day of Absence. The name of the play comes from a BBC interview from 2014 in which an interviewee suggested to a reporter, who is asking about immigration in the small village, ‘Send them back. Just send them all back.’ This interview got me thinking about Ward’s play and what would indeed happen if immigrants [including me as a US citizen] were indeed ‘sent back’. The anger expressed in Ward’s play where African Americans disappeared for a day is mirrored in the anger of this play where immigrants are forced to leave the United Kingdom.
Like Ward’s play, Send Them All Back, is a satirical piece of social criticism, but one that has become more and more like a documentary as the events eventually leading up to a United Kingdom leaving the European Union are concluded. Widening out the lens further, it is a commentary on the interdependence of humanity’s ecosystem and of internationalism. It is to be played on a bare stage with minimal props and set pieces to ensure the unrelenting quick pace of the piece. Ideally, as in Ward’s cast of all black actors playing Southern white characters, it would be performed by European actors impersonating a variety of English stereotype. The play closes asking the question of whether the upheaval has made things better for the native population of the United Kingdom:
‘There we have it guys: one of the biggest, high-risk political experiments in the past three hundred years and the word on the street is- it’s alright.’
© Matthew Hahn 2020