Moment of drama in the House

Rosie MacPherson and John Tomlinson, co-directors of Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company
Rosie MacPherson and John Tomlinson, co-directors of Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company

An extract from a play produced in Sheffield about the refugee crisis will be performed at the Houses of Parliament next week.

Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company, in partnership with City of Sanctuary, will be presenting a short section of their next show at the Sanctuary in Parliament event in a Committee Room at Westminster next Tuesday.

One woman’s bravery in the midst of abuse and prejudice

The full show will tour the UK, including the Crucible in Sheffield, next autumn.

Tanja is a timely new drama written by Rosie MacPherson with movement direction from Hannah Butterfield.

With development funding from Arts Council England they began researching the subject last year and started developing it at Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield.

“They invited us to share it as part of a Refugee Week there last June and we got a good response,” says producer John Tomlinson.

“Sarah Eldridge from City of Sanctuary wondered how we could become involved in their work and help the cause. Later she asked us to share the piece at one of their events and we agreed, not realising where it was. We are obviously thrilled and privileged to be going to Parliament.

It follows the successful first Sanctuary in Parliament last year and will celebrate the progress made since the launch of the Birmingham Declaration in October 2014.

“We are currently facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. There’s been a huge outpouring of support, concern and compassion right across the UK. To date, one third of the population have given donations in cash or kind to support people seeking refugee protection.”

Tanja is a two-hander set in the now infamous Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre and based on the true-life events of one detainee. Tanja arrived in the UK aged 10 with her Roma family on false documents and does not know her true nationality.

After her conviction for a street robbery in 2010 she was sentenced to deportation as a foreign criminal. The name Tanja made headlines last year when it was revealed that after reporting she had been sexually abused numerous times at Yarl’s Wood the Home Office had tried to deport her unsuccessfully, nine times.

“Set in her room at Yarl’s Wood, this is her story, her life, her love of Roma culture and music, her (despite everything) love of England and its quirky eccentricities and the abuse she has suffered in her quest for refuge,” says the producer. “With immigration issues reaching fever pitch, this is the story of one woman’s bravery in the midst of prejudice and abuse.“

The part of Tanja will be played by Rosie MacPherson at the Parliamentary event but when the play tours it will be performed by an actor who reflects her ethnicity.

Tanja is the fourth production by Strawberry Blonde Curls which was set up by Tomlinson, now assistant producer at Sheffield Theatres, and writer-performer MacPherson, after meeting at the University of Salford.