Protein: Border Tales at The Place Online
“My street is becoming more like Heathrow Arrivals, people coming and going from everywhere. My neighbours to the left, they’re Indian, and the bloke to the right, he’s from ‘Europe’. I’m not being funny right, but my cousin can’t even get a job. There’s no room for our own kind. Just sayin'”, says Andy as he rolls across his dance partner and kneels on the floor, raising his hands and widening his eyes to try as if to placate the audience.
Performed in 2017, the latest version of Border Tales illustrates the different experiences of being an immigrant against a backdrop of Brexit Britain. The show, originally conceived in 2013, uses contemporary dance, music and speech to explore the idea of living on the borders of society, not quite accepted in the place where you live.
The stage is sparse with a black backdrop. The dancers are barefoot and perform contemporary dance movements with an array of classical lifts. The choreography is free, experimental and shows a great degree of skill. The music is always on point and works well with the action. Dance and acting don’t always go together, but the performers effectively merge one with the other to create a visually compelling piece of theatre.
Everyday racism is revealed through powerfully subtle situations. At one point, all the dancers arrive at a party where a white man makes a bunch of racially charged assumptions about them through seemingly nice actions like offering each of them a drink he assumes they’ll like: “Jasmine tea?”, “Coconut water? Rum and ginger beer?”.
There is a powerful sequence in which a performer is surrounded by people saying, “Are you a real muslim or an international one? Can you recite your passport number without looking?”. At another point, the performers express how they feel others see them: “I think you think I’m responsible for all the missing dogs”; “I think you think I’m a submissive China doll”.
Border Towns feels very much like a Brexit piece, but it goes beyond that to paint a powerful tapestry of the microaggressions that people experienced way before the referendum and unfortunately still experience every day. It’s a well-thought-out, beautifully performed and poignant piece of theatre which will always be relevant.
Photo: Chris Nash