In 1948, many young men and women from Caribbean countries and islands arrived in the UK to help in the reconstruction of British cities and towns that had been bombed during World War II. It is well documented that many experienced racism, job discrimination, were denied proper housing and found it difficult to find acceptance in the UK. In an energised piece of physical story-telling, the play Route re-traces the experience of one Jamaican man arriving in London during this post-war period and the later experiences of his British-born daughter.
Although poignantly written, playwright Marie Myrie does not break any new ground with the narrative of racial slurs and prejudices that greet the Jamaican immigrant who narrates the piece, but where she does offer a fresh telling is in the militant aspects of skin colour that dominate the politics of his university-educated daughter. And this is where Route is the most effective – which is in its emphasis on the difficulties that British-born children of Caribbean immigrants have in navigating between their British-Caribbean heritage. The painful jibe that the play’s characters hurl at one another: ‘No offence but you seem a lot whiter than you do Black,’ is a nod to the complex task these young adults have in finding an easy mix between the two races, while still having to deal with a segment of White British culture that continues to impose a value on the colour of human skin.
Visually, Route is a delight in its sheer physicality which is a joyous, proud, confrontational celebration of all things Caribbean, along with the oft-repeated, self-assured phrase spoken by the ensemble of female actors: ‘My skin won’t be going anywhere.‘ The phrase itself serves as a mantra to a confident future and the talents they have to offer.
Especially noteworthy is the delightful co-ordination among the actors, whether they are shouting, dancing or supporting one another as they make their way through a journey of heritage and identity. Director Ewa Dina does a fine job of harnessing the energy of the group in the opening introduction of the piece. A thickly braided rope is lashed across the stage and each character traverses it barefoot, while gingerly maintaining their balance – not an easy feat, but a helping hand is always nearby. The rope itself is an object that represents many aspects of this immigrant story, from a difficult crossing to a new land, to an implement used in an act of brutality and capture. High accolades all around for Route as an energetic, organic piece of theatre.
Review by Loretta Monaco
ROUTE follows a young Black British university student seeking to grasp and unmask the definition of home. ROUTE is about a journey of belonging, heavily inspired by the Windrush Generation. Having parent’s that migrated as a product of the Windrush in 1948 from Jamaica, she finds herself embarking in a mirrored experience of isolation as we follow the journey of her time at a predominantly white middle-class city.
The play is centred around identity and finding place. In a country that is ideally a cultural melting pot, ROUTE touches upon many stories amongst us that read into the society we’re living in. It touches on the internal experiences and also the external experiences of being an ethnic minority in a country you are born in.
ROUTE began experimenting with Actors Awareness in 2016. It then went into a development Lab with the Lyric Hammersmith. It recently had its first sold-out performance at The Purple Playhouse, as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival.
Myrie & Dina ensure that all those working on the piece have a strong sense of play and discussion and believe it’s important to explore themes flexibly whilst enjoying the journey of identity within the play internally and externally.
Cast: Tony McPherson Dad
Analese Thomas-Strachan Ensemble
Andrea Lungay Ensemble
Anjalee Chakravarty Ensemble
Hayley Konadu Ensemble
Princess McDonnough Ensemble
Creatives: Producer Marie Myrie
Director Ewa Dina
Dramaturg Yuqun Fan
The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL
29th July – 30th July 2018