Babylon Beyond Borders at the Bush Theatre
Babylon Beyond Borders is crucially relevant, raw, honest and poignantly situated in a divided and politicised present. It transcends both the imagined borders of geopolitics and the real borders of space – accentuated by vast oceans – to deliver a harmonised dialogue between the diverse worlds of the periphery. This show unites four extraordinary theatres, combining music, laughter, dance and memories that explore the relationships between home, language, migration, race, economy and sociopolitics – from Grenfell to the Twin Towers to criticism of urban affliction and suicide. The work is not, however, an abstract critique of the city, nor is it a historical account of the human capacity to do wrong. Ostensibly, this production seeks inspiration from the present in communities that are stubbornly overlooked by a power-driven centre which seeks value only in the commercial.
With its gaze drifting to distant horizons, the piece reinstates the value of art for life’s sake – that is activism in art. The show unites talented artists from theatres which are immersed in their communities and which aspire towards a nuanced understanding of the people, speaking from their midst. Pequeno Ato from São Paulo, Brazil; Harlem Stage in New York; and Market Theatre Lab in Johannesburg come together with an eclectic symphony of women at London’s Bush Theatre.
Devised by Sarah Elizabeth Charles (New York), Pedro Granato (São Paulo), Mwenya Kabwe (Johannesburg) and Ruthie Osterman (London), Babylon Beyond Borders is not only an absolute must-see for its theatrical ingenuity and originality, but it is also a desperately important play for its fresh outlook, which celebrates distance from a hegemony dominated by fear of the other.
The audience can expect a hilarious escapade involving multiple dancing Theresa May characters, scintillating inter-spatial choreography, incomplete translations and cut-out lines that perfectly embody the politics of representation in a world in which power takes greater precedence over humanity. It’s not clear to what extent this last element was intentional but it nevertheless worked, causing a stir in the audience and resulting in a very satisfied standing ovation.
Photo: Wasi Daniju
Babylon Beyond Borders is at the Bush Theatre from 13th February until 16th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here. Catch the live-stream event on 16th February 2019 here.