#I AM ENGLAND
by Talawa Young People’s Theatre.
Lilian Baylis Studio Sadler’s Wells Theatre Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4TN To 27 August 2011.
BSL at all performances.
Runs: 45min No interval,
Review Carole Woddis 25 August.
How it is, told by some of those who are.
How do today’s young Black Britons feel about being British and living in England? #I am England devised by Talawa Young People’s Theatre with director Nazli Takatabai-Khatambakhsh gives an ambivalent answer. “I no longer want to be English. I am English,” goes one cry.
And yet, against the odds, this short, scatter-gun but immensely effecting, clever and disciplined dance/text compendium suggests hope – that England can be a place worth living in. “Stay open to choice,” are its final words, a stricture you feel directed as much to new generations as those watching today. Don’t get taken in by false consumerism.
Talawa is our major Black theatre company. Celebrating 25 years they’ve embarked on an ambitious year long round of celebratory events and productions. #I am England however is a reminder of just how challenging being Black and British still is. Looking back over the last quarter-century it comes up with a kaleidoscope of historical moments – told through music, texts and dance movement – such as the Brixton riots, the death of Stephen Lawrence but also the cultural consciousness surrounding them.
“Ever have the feeling you’re being watched and nobody’s there?” goes one cry. “Somebody stole my future,” goes another, subsequently taken up and repeated by the group as a whole.
Surveillance and continual reminders of how different they are, pace Thatcher and others’ political speeches aside, it is the Media who are singled out for criticism that comes obliquely but with a refreshingly satirical, sceptical and thankfully political edge.
Looking forward another quarter century, Talawa’s YPT create an apocalyptic vision. A cure for Aids but abolition of government, the shutdown of the four major media organisations, factories selling water to desperate householders and CCTV mandatory in every home.
Inevitably, so much forced into such a short time frame creates its own frustrations. But we ignore the group’s findings at our peril. “Hear our voice,” emblazoned on walls and windows, is a wake-up call to us all.
Writers/Performers: Winnie Arhin, Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter, Michelle D’Costa, Madeleine Kludge, Aiesha Lindsay, Eugene Osei, Palesa Mokoena, Rona Namudu, Adam Tulloch, Toniche Wallace.
Director: Nazli Tbatabai-Khatambakhsh.
Designer: Hannah Roche.
Lighting: Pablo Fernandez.
Music: Mr Dex.
Choreographer: Nadia Iftkhar.
Assistant director/AV: Oyin Solebo.
Assistant director: Stephanie Yamson.
Design assistant: Rosanna Stalbow.