Undercover Refugee

★★★
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Undercover Refugee
Published 04 Mar 2018

Undercover Refugee satirises the saviour complex in an honest storytelling performance based on Karen Houge's own experience. 

Set during the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, Houge is on the Greek island of Lesbos to make a documentary. Thousands of refugees come ashore and are met by European volunteers there to 'save' them. Their boats are towed by fishermen to the part of the beach where media cameras document the suffering.

Houge refuses to speak for people. She shows only how she was treated by refugees and by the police (and in contrast to being Norwegian and mistaken for a refugee). Even among the European authorities policing the refugee journey through Serbia, her Norwegian passport is coveted. Houge's privilege and naivety are not hidden. Instead, this performance constantly short-circuits the audience's expectations. She playfully chastises David Tann's stereotyping attempts, and the humanity and individuality come to the fore for each character she encounters.

This is a subtle performance and genuinely hilarious, despite its sombre content.