Talawa Young Peoples’s Theatre (TYPT) are exploring twenty five years of Black British history and the current social shifts to create a brand new piece of theatre, #I am England.
#I Am England
“Hear my voice, hear my voice”.
This message which was superbly expressed by the young people of Talawas’ young people’s theatre is delivered with much character, style and kinetic energy.
However whilst their fusion of drama meets performance art both captivates and educates, the obvious limitations caused by time constraints on the entire piece occasionally infuriates at the same time.
From the beginning it is obvious this is no mere street performance as the multi-talented team dare to reveal the often unspoken thoughts and opinions on political themes that plague the minds of young Africans in Britain today.
Using the innovative backdrop of a journey through past, present and future, we are taken through several stunning set pieces in which the young company start digging beyond the headlines and surface interpretations of historic events.
One such powerful moment is their montage of those that have lost their lives in custody. Another is an acute sketch highlighting the manipulative techniques today’s journalist use to interject political bias into the news. Their analytical breakdown of the damage to Truth in a world where mass media dominates is majestically demonstrated with sufficient research. Indeed it often comes to the fore in humorous renditions of scenarios most people of their generation are likely to be familiar with.
However it is here where spectators can experience frustration when engaging scenes that feel a little cut short to make way for eclectic performance pieces, which whilst successful in providing strong transitions from theme to theme, limit the amount of time we have to appreciate the dramatic talent of individual performers.
Yet whilst this may prevent any one on the young artists from stealing the stage, it has the benefit of showcasing the strength of the ten strong ensemble. Especially, their ability to work collaboratively in order to express some difficult and very contemporaneous themes such as the recent London Uprisings that metamorphed into nationwide English Riots.
This was perhaps potently expressed in the closing scene where through some sublime directorship and superb choreography the performers were able to compress their structured time travelling experience into a frenetic conclusion showcasing both the power of youth energy and the potential explosion that is often caused by the failure of those older to listen.
Perhaps it is the timing of this play in the aftermath of 2011's summer of discontent that makes the plays subject matter seem so urgent, perhaps it’s the humorous manner in which the pernicious influence and dreams of abolition is presented in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.
Whatever the reason, there is something very compelling about #I Am England, that is truthful, honest and original. If this is a taster of things to come, olde England is about to face a reality shock when it finally opens its eyes and truly takes a good look in the mirror through the eyes of the next generation.
Devised by TYPT:11
Director: Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh
Assistant Directors: Stephanie Yamson, Oyin Solebo
Choreographer: Nadia Iftkhar
Cast: Winnie Arhin, Terri Ann Bobb-Baxter, Michelle D'Costa, Madeleine Kludje, Aiesha Lindsay, Eugene Osei, Palesa Mokoena, Rona Namudu, Adam Tulloch, Toniche Wallace
External LinksTalawa: #I am England
Hear our Voice: Rehersal and Performance. Photo: Oyin Solebo/ Richard H. Smith
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