Review: BE // LONGING – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.

Presented by award-winning Take Back Theatre [ Julie Hesmondhalgh, Rebekah
Harrison and Grant Archer ] in collaboration with Manchester University`s Migration Lab.

Where can I start? This project was on a huge scale, and highly ambitious. Part theatre, part exhibition, part art gallery, part installation, part lecture, part music video, this was a very passionate, heart-felt and well-researched cri-du- coeur on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of migrants / refugees who flee their own counties in search of a better life in England.
On entering Hope Mill [the mill`s unfinished and industrial feel suiting the mood of
the evening well], we are given a “passport”; by “border control”giving us access to all areas but and warned to keep this with us at all times. A lovely idea which stopped there and was not developed any further. Shame. Spot checks and raids could have been included and we could have had to have shown our passes and get them stamped when moving from space to space.
The entire theatre building had been taken over by this project, even spilling outside with an installation inside a van at the doorway.
Once inside the space, we were bombarded with an overload of information from all angles. Visuals included cardboard boxes of emergency supplies for the refugees and installations including, The Colour Of The Sea At Sunrise {performance poetry by Louise Wallwein}, The Jungle {inspired by her time as a volunteer at Calais by Matilda Glen}, Under Canvas {about birth in refugee camps by Take Back}, and a rather satirical but nevertheless hard-hitting “newspaper” produced by Dr. Cathy Wilcock with the help of asylum seekers in the Manchester area, entitled, “Not The Fake News”;.
There were also telephones dotted around the spaces with pre-recorded accounts of people`s stories taken from Migration Lab` s research and spoken by actors.
The flagship of the whole presentation however was a forty minute piece of scripted theatre. Written by Harrison and performed earnestly by Nadia Emam and Darren Kuppan, and directed by Matt Hassall it tells sound-bites of some of the true stories from the Migration Lab`s research, exploring the term “border” and what border means to each individual – actual or unseen. Rather than being engaging and pulling at our heart strings though, this had the opposite effect. There was too much information –
total overkill, and because there were so many stories, and then only snippets of
stories, we could neither relate nor emote to their plights, and rather than theatre it felt
a lot more like a lecture
In conclusion, I would say the idea noble, the premise great, however, the execution
of those ideas was overkill and could have been made a lot more theatrical. Instead of
trying to promote discussion, compassion and understanding, I left feeling very
weary. Weary of being talked at and being given too much to consume and mull-over
all at once. Overwhelming.

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