FESTIVAL THEATRE | Migration
The Sky Is Safe (main page); Top-bottom: Quarter Life Crisis, Smoking with Grandma, Becoming Scheherazade 110 THE LIST FESTIVAL 3–10 Aug 2017
Playwright Cathy SK Lam is also keen to put real human experiences of migration centre stage. Smoking With Grandma presented by ThreeWoods, is a new multimedia play that seeks to explore the lives lived behind the term ‘refugee’. Lam’s work, which has received critical acclaim at both Hong Kong and Adelaide Fringe Festivals in 2017, tells the story of refugees who lived on Tiu Keng Leng, a remote island in Hong Kong, after l eeing mainland China.
Lam is not looking to overload the audience with narrative, facts or i gures, but rather would prefer to trigger interest. ‘It all depends on themselves for the little changes they want to make or discussions they want to initiate after seeing the performance,’ she says. ‘Making a performance gives you a second chance to live the life again: our life or someone’s life. You get to know the life that you are not familiar with.’ Migration, however, is about more than border crossings. Yolanda Mercy’s semi-autobiographical piece, Quarter Life Crisis, wrestles with the responsibilities and societal expectations of being a twentysomething. Yet she recognises an additional complexity: to reconcile a London upbringing with her Nigerian heritage.
Mercy hopes that her show will encourage audience members to feel curious about their own heritage. ‘I am Nigerian, so audiences get to experience a bit of my culture, of Yoruban language, of my country’s history and music, with a slight London twist,’ says the actor and playwright. She hopes her audience will ‘discover who they are, celebrate what makes them unique, and question what western society’s notion of “growing up” means in 2017.’ At the same time, Quarter Life Crisis demonstrates that migration has driven the multicultural energy that dei nes contemporary British culture.
Kamaal Hussain is also rel ecting on his own personal experience, i ltering his life-story through the tale of Sinbad’s seven voyages in Becoming Scheherazade. In light of Middle Eastern wars and terror attacks, he was keen to respond to the representation of Arabs in western culture. ‘I believe performance, especially live performance, offers an immediacy that is unparalleled elsewhere,’ says the writer who is also artistic director at The Thief of Baghdad theatre company. ‘As an audience, being in front of a real person who is honestly presenting their truth is an incomparable means of engendering empathy.’ Theatre is more often in the business of posing questions than providing answers: these performances offer insights into the lives and circumstances of contemporary migrants and refugees, with an emphasis on the human costs and consequences.
Whether invoking mythologies or adapting interviews with immigrants, and placing the stories within their political context, these shows reveal the emotions and experiences behind the headlines, even rel ecting how cultural heritage extends into the next generation and enriches British society with its distinctive perspective. From this, migration becomes less of a crisis than a process that is capable of inspiring change.
The Sky Is Safe, Summerhall, 4–27 Aug (not 14, 21), 7.45pm, £15 (£10). Preview 2 Aug, £8. The Sleeper, theSpace @ Jury’s Inn, 7–26 Aug (not 13, 20), times and prices vary. Previews 4 & 5 Aug, 11.40am, £5 (£4).
Smoking With Grandma, C royale, 2–15 Aug, 1.40pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£7.50–£9.50). Quarter Life Crisis, Underbelly Cowgate, 5–27 Aug (not 14), 2.40pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10). Previews 3 & 4 Aug, £6.50.
Becoming Scheherazade, Summerhall, 4–27 Aug (not 7, 14, 21), 3pm, £10 (£8). Previews 2 & 3 Aug, £7.50 (£5).