Where We Began
Stand and Be Counted Theatre
Camden People’s Theatre
A few weeks back, I was sidelined into a very odd conversation. A woman from Hungary who now works in London suddenly told me that Britain should never have let any migrants in.
Perhaps she had in mind the alternate future attempted in Rosie MacPherson’s Where We Began, though I’m betting she wouldn’t want to live in that future.
Everyone is being transported to their country of birth. The planes will stop flying and even Internet access to other countries will be limited. It's the beginning of a “purer” national culture.
A settlement officer (Shireen Farkhoy) welcomes returnees back to England and a “complicit future” that is “a better future”.
The show shifts between her words and the experience of four people returned to different countries, their stories being told against a clinically white-tiled backdrop and floor.
Families are split. People are sent to birth countries they are unfamiliar with. Suddenly even simple tasks like shopping become difficult.
Rosie worries about her sister stuck in a different country to herself who doesn’t answer the phone. Tafadzwa sits exasperated with his attempts to learn a new language in Africa.
Far from the new arrangements creating a more peaceful society, they stir up friction between the “originals” who are already in the country and the recent returnees.
A number are radicalised. Fernanda stands for election in Brazil, Rosie begins testing ways she can break the legal restrictions.
Meanwhile, Shireen admits the powerful break the very rules they impose on everyone else.
The performance entertainingly mixes stories with the occasional fine a cappella singing and humour, but the most moving sequence is the testimony of Tafadzwa Muchenje who describes how at the age of nineteen he was told that, while the rest of his family were given leave to stay in the UK, he must be sent back to the African country he left at the age of six months.
The Hungarian who told me her dream of a golden age of borders should see this show. But let's keep it away from government ministers. They might make it a manifesto pledge.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna