Arts & Culture / Reviews

Protein Dance presents BORDER TALES

Wed 5 Feb Robin Howard Dance Theatre, London

Protein Dance BORDER TALES

Luca Silvestrini, artistic director of Protein Dance, presents a thought-provoking and accessible piece of dance theatre surrounding identity and culture. It captivates as soon as you enter the theatre, asked to present a boarding card (aka ticket). The performers give accounts of what they face living in Britain, coming from across the world. Eight central characters embody, through movement and speech, attributes that are associated with where they are from.  Stuart Waters, with family originally from Britain, acts as a spider’s web capturing these stories and essentially holds these other people captive, to increase his own cultural capital. He hosts a party welcoming these different cultures to ‘his space’. Stuart addresses the people at his party by their cultural backgrounds and religion, asking YuYu Rau, from Taiwan, if she would like a Jasmine Tea and refers to Femi Oyewole, from Nigeria, as ‘brother’. A series of racial slurs and ignorant remarks sparks a journey towards understanding these different people.

Set in the round we isolate the characters as they often fight to be heard and recognised. Snippets of all of the performer’s cultural heritages are shown, giving an honest insight into each of their lives. Eryck Brahmania displays confusion in how he is perceived, having parents from the Philippines and India. He gives examples of what people have said:

“You’re too dark to be Filipino and too light to be Indian”

Eryck’s monologue evokes movement, snaking across the stage. After meeting all of the characters the stage ascends into chaos, anger and disarray. Jubilation then seems to overcome the performers, accompanied by an upbeat jig. Stuart rejoices at the thought that his guests might be finally enjoying his party. However, this is not the case.

Taunting, in surround sound, sadistic and sinister laughs force Stuart into an emotional frenzy as the other performers treat Stuart as he treated them. Questioning the audience Stephen Moynihan makes us think. How can we call the UK multicultural if there is still a sense of dominance and an underlying hostility towards ‘others’? Why do we need to feel better than someone else, whether that be because of race, ethnicity, religion, class or sex? The piece does not aim to change opinion, it educates, and perhaps the sequel to this work could look at gender and sexuality.

Overall, Silvistrini, with his dancers, has produced a daring piece of interdisciplinary theatre, which displays movement from around the world and gives different perspectives of relatable experiences. A must see with a strong cast, satire and a poignant message.

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