Leave Taking

Winsome Pinnock
Bush Theatre
Bush Theatre

Wil Johnson and Sarah Niles Credit: Helen Murray
Adjoa Andoh and Seraphina Beh Credit: Helen Murray
Seraphina Beh Credit: Helen Murray

Migration has been no easy thing for the women depicted in Winsome Pinnock’s very moving, perceptive and often funny 1986 play Leave Taking.

Enid Matthews (Sarah Niles) is one of the Windrush generation who came with her husband from Jamaica to London on the promise of work and a better life.

Now she works two jobs a week and brings up two teenage daughters on her own since her husband, once so enthusiastic about the new world of the UK, left her years ago, bitter and angry at the racism he had experienced in his job at the Smithfield meat market.

She too had experienced racism and her daughter Del describes a particularly humiliating incident when the year before she had dressed up for a staff social only to be ordered to clean up after “one of the nurses drinks too much and pukes all over the floor... Yes, England loves you, all right. No wonder Dad left you.”

Such things add to her worries about her mother becoming ill in Jamaica and her suspicions that her daughter Del (Seraphina Beh) is pregnant.

This is a fine, engaging production with Sarah Niles giving an especially sensitive performance as Enid trying to hold back emotions that have been suppressed and kept private for years.

Much of the action takes the form of a clash of generations among women who you can tell genuinely care about each other.

Enid is determined to maintain a respectable household while the daughters are more restless for change.

“You think things would change by now” says Mai (Adjoa Andoh) a woman referred to as an Obeah that Enid goes to for spiritual and healing support. Mai adds, “it must be some kinda curse that condemns our people to wander the earth like ghosts who can’t find rest.”

And, as if in anticipation of recent events, when Enid tells her brother Brod (Wil Johnson) that at least they have been told they are secure staying in Britain, he replies, “secure what? Till them change them mind again?”

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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