Some Call It Home

Created, produced and directed by Robert Taub, music by Jane O'Leary and Jonathan Dawe
Presented by Theatre Royal Plymouth and The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth
Theatre Royal Plymouth

Some Call It Home

Created by renowned concert pianist and Music Director of The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth Robert Taub for the blighted (by C19) Mayflower 400 commemorations, Some Call It Home is an ambitious, evocative and provocative multimedia piece for a string nonet and (mainly) two voices.

Taub’s desire to explore what may be learned from the events of 1620 brings together composers Mayflower descendant Jane O’Leary and the quirky Jonathan Dawe, sung extracts from commentary or writings ranging from Harriot’s 1585 A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia through President Thomas Jefferson’s 1805 2nd Inaugural Address to 2017 remarks made by a people smuggler, and projected images.

Quite a hotchpotch.

My very musically knowledgeable, choir-singing companion found the 75 minutes quite stunningly beautiful. I admit I struggled as I am not a fan of dissonance, distracted by trying to find a melody but recognising reworkings of Baroque airs and echoes of Native Indian drumbeats. The more traditionally melodic interludes are indeed lovely, soprano Erika Baikoff fulsome across a wide range and baritone Timothy Nelson mellifluous in both song and spoken word, while conductor Mark Forkgen is clearly in charge before the Kokoro Ensemble, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Repeatedly posing the pivotal question ‘If we stand on the moon, what would we see?’, a profusion of sound and visuals (many courtesy of The British Museum) and an eclectic march through history explores just what the planet means to mankind and how that which is a frontier or wilderness to one, may be where another calls home.

We are shown how the Pilgrims’ possession of a deserted verdant plain (abandoned due to the decimation of the previous inhabitants succumbing to European disease) was deemed God clearing a space for the Pilgrims in the wilderness and part of His ‘special purpose’ which accelerated with white privilege. How property possession became paramount with the Louisiana Purchase—buying land from a people who didn’t believe land could be owned—and the march of acquisition and dominance as, after all, who wants anyone other than kith or kin living on the opposite riverbank?

Adding a polemic on the environment, the piece explores how the guardianship of the delicate balance of nature bent from the "humble path of stewardship” to the Manifest Destiny to fulfil President Andrew Jackson’s prophecy of towns and farms, civilisation and religion being preferable to forests ranged by a few thousand savages as desert transmogrifies into glittering Las Vegas and sprawling Los Angeles.

Fast forward to 1945 and the first nuclear explosion—success provoking laughter or tears and tinged with the observation that “We knew the world would not be the same”—and a 2017 grainy black and white film of trucks loaded with modern-day ‘Pilgrims’: people braving the inhospitable desert in their escape from a home which is no longer sustainable. As we are all too aware, a very different migration and a very different reception.

A junior chorus from Plymouth Performing Arts Academy joins the piece as the circle is closed with Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders's words of lessons learned from moon exploration: “we set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth”, how distance and division are purely a matter of perspective—and reminding us that “we are all, together, stewards of this fragile treasure”.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell