Up at Leytonstone Library E11 about twenty-three adults and a couple of kiddies waited patiently for the other seven or more audience members to roll in late so we could enjoy some plays. The MC aka playwright/director Paula David told us the four sketches represented the stories told to her by Caribbean people who were immigrants back in the day i.e 1950s to 1980s.
The venue is cosy, shabby and informal. The set on the stage was similar. There was no colour or brightness as the background to miserable personal real accounts acted out by stationary actors including Trevor David and Anthony Chisholm punctuated by the in and outs of an actress playing the part of a newscaster over the decades. The scripts attempted to heighten our senses of what Caribbean immigrants felt during Windrush times and later . When I say senses I mean the colours, the sounds, the smells. I got grey, bathroom damp, and green army uniforms smelling of the earth.
Story-telling on stage is what I visited today. No magic appeared.
Oh yawn. Haven’t we done all this? In the eighties? In the late seventies? Haven’t we the older generation, 50 plus in years, heard all the stories yet? Lenny Henry’s done his stories of first generation Caribbeans to death and now reclines richly on Premier beds.The local youth may have been expected but were absent today. They may have liked the stories but would have wanted action. “Stories of Migration” will likely go into schools. .
This is theatre rather than research and literature so I expected to be drawn in. I was. I expected to be entertained. I wasn’t. I expected surprises. None. I expected theatre. Nope.
The acting was what it was. The actors were mostly alone on the stage with their monologues. They mulled over scripted accounts which were personal histories and many of the audience members will have heard the same kind of stories from their grans and in a couple of cases experienced being in the fifties and head butting with “the grey Better life”. The best line was from the Grenadian who joined the British police force and recognised when he said, as he slid through a career trailing in the odious remains of a colonial beast staffed by rude irritated white commanders, “Racism became easier ” (to deal with).
What grants can do eh?
In the audience was Baden Prince Junior. Twas a pleasure to meet again the poet and teacher whose phrase “Don’t be clever, Trevor” is the best way to stop his workshop students of any age over-rhyming.
Don’t be clever, Trevor.
The event today was one out of the many thrown into the mix of “Words Over Waltham Forest”.
I did recommend that anyone wanting to participate in Peter Ashan’s forthcoming Heritage Project centred around immigration stories from African-Caribbean and Asian Waltham Forest residents 1940-1990 get along to “Stories of Migration. That forthcoming project will be coming to an Asian centre near you! Funding presumed.
Thank you Waltham Forest Libraries for giving the public the opportunity to see free theatre. I’m certain I’m the only one who tells the libraries in advance if I’m not coming as is requested on the Eventbrite booking form. All the empty seats today eh? Fool me.
Three Mills in Stratford is doing a workshop day in October for £39 instead of £120 all about the creative process in film. Hmm.
And there’s more…On Thursday 10th October 6.30pm at Tower Hamlets Archives, 227 Bancroft Rd E1 (205 bus) almost opposite the estate where Billy Ocean grew up (yeah!) there’s an introduction to “Where I Belong” the local oral history project capturing (!) Asian and Black women’s herstories (!) of residency in Tower Hamlets. Free. Open to all.