Rule 35 performance at Z-Arts, Manchester

Rule 35: "Detention should be reconsidered if a detainee is experiencing physical or mental health issues or has previously experienced torture"

Rule 35

Rule 35
Directed by Cheryl Martin
Created and performed by women who have experienced the inhumanity of the asylum system.

“One of the most powerful performances I have ever seen”
“There was a passion and a fury in the performances, fiery enough to rival the greatest thespians. Touching and terrifying all at once”
“Powerful, harrowing, important”
“Vital subject matter, extremely powerful format and performance. I am in awe of the women bringing this performance to people, committing to educate others when they have experienced this trauma themselves”

From September 2014 to March 2015, CAN worked in partnership with the Boaz Trust to deliver a second-year of creative workshops and performance for refugee and asylum-seeker women in Greater Manchester.

The theme of the play – the impact of detention on women’s emotional and physical wellbeing, was chosen by the women, drawing on the personal experience and testimonies of 10 women from the group. The title of the play, Rule 35 related to a rarely applied Home Office directive to detention centres, which is supposed to safeguard particularly vulnerable detainees including pregnant women, those suffering from mental distress and victims of torture.

The final three performances of Rule 35 took place at Z-Arts on Sat 28 March and sold out several days beforehand. Audience members came from as far afield as London, Cardiff and Exeter to see the play.

These ground-breaking performances were multidisciplinary and immersive, with the different scenes representing aspects of daily life in detention acted by the women, and regularly interspersed with song and movement. Rule 35 was accompanied by video and sound bites of the women talking about detention and a highly atmospheric sound scape and lighting design.

The whole play aimed to give the audience an insight into some of the arbitrary practices that take place in Yarlswood and other immigration and removal centres across Britain’s detention estate. Audience members were shouted at in foreign languages, led to their seats blindfolded, separated from their friends and instructed to take part in some of the scenes by guards played by former detainees, alongside fellow detainees played by the women.

The show was accompanied by a lively post show discussion which featured the Director, members of the cast, the producer, Boaz Trust founder – Dave Smith and Cameroonian playwright, Lydia Besong and enabled audience members to further engage with the issues raised by the play.

Rule 35 had a powerful effect on audience members with 92% rating the show as between 8 and 10 out of 10 and strong involvement in the post-show discussion. There was a strong engagement with the show through social media with many tweeting and retweeting about the show.

The play also struck a chord with the press gaining feature articles in The Guardian Online, The Observer and Manchester Evening News, radio interviews on BBC Radio 4’s PM show and BBC Radio Three Counties show (the local radio station for Yarlswood) and a feature and interviews on Russia Today TV.

This programme was funded by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales, The Network for Social Change, Manchester City Council and Arts Council England

Artists: Magdalen Bartlett, Mahboobeh Rajabi, Nikki Mailer, Yvonne Shelton
Digital Media team: Caitlin Gleeson, Elham Karami-Yeganeh, Katrina Coomer, Yolande Goodman
Production team: Kamini Patel, Louise Gregory, Stacey Choudhury-Potter


  1. […] Rule 35 will be performed on March 28, 2015 at Z-arts in Hulme, Manchester. For more info, click here […]

  2. […] was a question I kept asking myself throughout Rule 35, an immersive show about the fear and isolation of women held in detention centres […]

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