How to Break Out of a Detention Centre photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon

Interview: Lizzie Clarke, Sînziana Cojocărescu & Mihaela Drăgan on How To Break Out of a Detention Centre

Image credit: Flavia Fraser-Cannon

BÉZNĂ Theatre & Giuvlipen collaboration How To Break Out Of A Detention Centre is a (depressingly) timely performance exploring the hardships faced by women within the UK immigration detention system.

We caught up with Lizzie Clarke (performer and BÉZNĂ Theatre Associate Artist), Sînziana Cojocărescu (writer and Co-Artistic Director of BÉZNĂ Theatre) and Mihaela Drăgan (dramaturg and Co-Founder of Giuvlipen) to talk about the show, inspirations, and favourite haunts!

How To Break Out Of A Detention Centre | Riverside Studios | Until 8 March | £15

Tell us about the show coming up at Riverside Studios and what it means to you

Lizzie: How To Break Out Of A Detention Centre follows four women, detainees and workers at Derwentside Immigration Removal centre.

It’s really a type of exposé about the immigration system and how these four incredible female characters are interwoven into the system. 

Come and see it! 

Mihaela: The show is obviously about detention centres for immigrants in the UK and at the same time it speaks about many other topics like internalised racism, inequality & abuse of powers. It also talks about solidarity and resistance. 

The topic of the show is close to my preoccupations and art (as a company we, Giuvlipen, always engage from a critical perspective) and at the same time it’s very emotional for me as it’s a topic that talks about how my people, and in general people of colour, are treated and all the hatred they suffer here in the UK and the torture they face in detention centres. 

Sinziana: How To Break Out of a Detention Centre is a show about creating a community and building a movement. It asks what it takes to change structures of oppression in the UK and urges audiences to ask themselves how far they would go to enact those changes. As a British-Romanian company, performing at Riverside Studios is an opportunity for us to reach even more audiences with our work. This production for us means a partnership with AVID detention (who support people experiencing detention), a chance to work with London Roma Artists (we are running a workshop on Saturday 4 March) and the biggest team of fellow migrant, working class artists we have ever worked with. 

What are your inspirations for making your work?

Sinziana: We always start with people. We meet people, we interview people, we listen to people. And from there we do extensive contextual research to understand the structures behind the inequality & hardships they face. All our work looks at societal violences – and specifically work on this show started back in 2018, when we came back from Romania, thinking we were going to make work about BREXIT, but instead, realised we had to make work about the structures that exist including the Home Office (ILLEGALISED), the arms trade (wipe these tears) and now detention centres. There is always a strong anti-imperialist & anti-racist stance to our work, we often look to history for context and we take inspiration from communities formed through resistance.

Lizzie: As an associate artist with BÉZNĂ, inspiration will always start with the text and the research. And there is always a lot of research, there’s a team of researchers! Acting in their work always comes down to “what’s the political statement in this scene or at the heart of this character?” and then what are the strongest choices the artist can make to highlight them, whilst always holding on to the humanity in the character. 

Mihaela: I always take inspiration from the most current, political things that are happening in society. I also aim in my art to experiment more and talk about more fictional narratives that are not always inspired from reality, for example Roma Futurism, Roma Science Fiction. At the same time the inspiration comes from reality and all the struggles people have. I make art that’s a tool to make sure people have the necessary discussions. 

What are your favourite haunts?

Sinziana: If we’re at the theatre it has to be Camden People’s Theatre

If we’re going out for drinks, our producer loves Happiness Forgets.

But we have to be honest, since working at Riverside Studios we have discovered the best pizza in a pub round the corner which took us all by surprise! 

Lizzie: I love a cafe or a greasy spoon. But if I have a free day I’ll probably be at an art exhibition or loitering around the Barbican.

Mihaela: I think museums, I like contemporary exhibitions. My house really is my favourite place. It’s the most comfortable place to be, and I always have people over there – so the best parties and conversations happen there.