“When [Artistic Director] Gemma Whelan asked me to write an audio piece for Corrib, I knew instantly that I would like to write about Direct Provision,” explains Irish playwright Jaki McCarrick.
McCarrick is the creator of Sweet Afton, a one-act play now audio-streaming via Corrib Theatre. It’s a world premiere for the play. McCarrick herself is no stranger to Corrib. Her Belfast Girls played on the Corrib stage a couple of seasons back. (Or was it three? One loses track on Covid time.)
Kazim and Leila Karimi (Shahjehan Khan and Fatima Wardak), brother and sister, flee Afghanistan to become asylum seekers in Ireland, but instead of refuge, they are met with Direct Provision—Ireland’s inhumane system of endless incarceration. Banned from working or even cooking their own meals, Kazim and Leila struggle with isolation and the limbo of uncertainty. Unlike many in their situation, they decide to take matters into their own hands and fight the Direct Provision system. Befriended by Andrea (Lauren Bloom Hanover), who works in the on-site cafeteria, the two embark on a clever albeit convoluted path, hoping to achieve their goals of citizenship and autonomy.
“While the immigration system is different in Ireland, there are many parallels in the struggles and hopes that immigrants and displaced peoples go through in coming to the United States,” says Director Tracy Cameron Francis. “The themes of interruption and waiting really struck me while working on Sweet Afton in relation to the struggles and hopes of those whose lives have been interrupted and then put on indefinite hold while they are caught up in inhumane and bureaucratic systems of approval and integration.”
McCarrick packs a lot of information into a short play. What stands out is the pluck and determination of these two young asylum seekers who only wish to assimilate and contribute their considerable talents to their new country.
The show is available to stream through September 5. Tickets to Sweet Afton are available here. Thanks to Adam Liberman, audio, and Shahjehan Kahn, original composition.