SBC Theatre, Britain's first theatre company of Sanctuary, presents Tanja, an impassioned call to arms, a play and a campaign, at York Theatre Royal Studio tonight (November 23).

Described as a dramatic, meta-theatrical exploration of immigration detention centres, the 7.45pm performance stars Emily Ntshangase-Wood, a former Yarl’s Wood detainee in Bedfordshire.

Alongside Emily in the cast will be John Tomlinson, a familiar figure within the corridors of the Theatre Royal as an associate producer there, but also the co-founder and producer of SBC Theatre, whose initials stand for Stand And Be Counted.

He set up the company seven years ago with writer and actress Rosie MacPherson, joined in 2015 by Hannah Butterfield. "I'm from Goole, Hannah is from Scunthorpe and Rosie is London based, but we're definitely a Yorkshire company. We became associate artists at CAST in Doncaster last year and we're the first theatre company of Sanctuary, a status that was given to us last year too on our journey to making this show, under which we're doing work to help those seeking asylum," says Tomlinson.

"It's a distinction from other companies but it's also about us trying to embed values of welcoming, especially for those who might have difficult situations."

Take Emily Ntshangase-Wood, for example. "With Emily, she had never done any acting before but she'd done a lot of volunteering for the Refugee Council and City of Sanctuary, which has a fairly new branch in York, and she's very good at public speaking.

"For Tanja, as we were making the show, lots of Emily's experiences as a detainee at Yarl's Wood came into the storyline, along with experiences of others detained there," says Tomlinson. "Yarl's Wood is an immigration removal centre; essentially women in there are detained, some for a week, some for two weeks, some for much longer, maybe months, and because it's covered by the Official Secrets Act, it's very difficult to get any information about it.

"And as the women in there have no rights, whereas terror suspects can be held in detention for 28 days, those seeking asylum can be held there indefinitely."

Emily Ntshangase-Wood has been detained at Yarl's Wood on three separate occasions. "But her story is very hopeful and positive as she now has the right to stay for another two and a half years, and she has rights, legally, to go to university, but only as an international student, which means she can't work," says Tomlinson. "Emily had fled from Zimbabwe, coming to England with the understanding she would live with a family that would support her while she was here, but that was not the case."

Instead, on those three aforementioned occasions, she was taken to Yarl's Wood. "So the play is a great platform for Emily to highlight what happened to her but she does it in such a positive way, and now she's studying for a BA in social care on a scholarship at Birmingham University."

SBC Theatre in Tanja, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight (November 23) at 7.45pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at