Eye of a Needle – 'scorching' new satire about asylum

Chris MacDonald's 'explosive' debut about gay asylum seekers balances hilarity with tragedy

Eye of the Needle
(Image credit: The Southwark Playhouse)

What you need to know

A new satire about asylum, Eye of a Needle, has opened at the Southwark Playhouse. Chris MacDonald's debut play draws from real-life case studies and testimonials and was developed with Out of Joint theatre company, who also recently developed Richard Bean's Pitcairn.

The play tells the story of a hard-partying UK immigration control officer called Laurence, who is forced to confront troubling personal and professional issues when he processes the asylum application of Ugandan gay rights activist Natale Bamadi.

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Holly Race-Roughan directs a cast including Ony Uhiara and Stephen Hudson. Runs until 20 September.

What the critics like

MacDonald's "scorching debut play" exposes the humiliating ordeal suffered by those seeking asylum in the UK on the ground of homophobic persecution, says Sam Marlowe in The Times. It's an explosive portrayal of institutional chaos and MacDonald's dialogue crackles with tension.

Eye of a Needle "starts on a deceptively light note" with an asylum seeker enthusiastically rattling off a hilariously detailed list of gay sex acts, says Tom Wicker in Time Out. But MacDonald quickly and deftly cuts our laughter short in his accomplished debut, which pulses with bitter humour as it attacks the cynicism of a beleaguered system where exclusion has become the priority.

It's a comedy in the sense that is gets the crowd laughing loud, "but it's first and foremost a tragedy, depicting the extreme trauma so many people live with each day", says Johanna Eliasson in the Up and Coming. All the actors captivate in a play that will linger in the minds of audiences.

What they don't like

The only misfire is the character of Laurence's boss, Ted, who swings awkwardly between inexplicable malice and over-worked weariness, says Tom Wicker in Time Out. "He's a jarring presence in what is otherwise a sharp and thought-provoking production."

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