BE//LONGING at Hope Mill Theatre: Review

Award-winning Manchester theatre collective Take Back Theatre have teamed up with Manchester Migration Lab and Hope Mill Theatre to explore and address our perceptions and understanding of migration.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 3 December 2018

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This thought-provoking and deeply moving multi-faceted piece uses music, art, scripted theatre and multimedia presentations to tell real and honest stories of migration. This creative partnership with Manchester University’s new Migration Lab offers audiences the chance to gain a deeper and more honest understanding of all forms of migration, happening the world over every day.

Upon arrival each audience members papers are checked and a temporary travel document approved which we must carry with us at all times. We are then given a map allowing us to navigate as we cross the border into Hope Mill Theatre.

The theatre space has been transformed to resemble a warehouse on the edge of the border; boxes are piled up, labelled to indicate types of clothing, ages, sizes etc ahead of distribution. Telephones dotted around the theatre allow audiences to listen in on personal & deeply moving migrant stories , a recording of a Syrian refugee speaking to an Italian Coastguard as a boat sinks, an account of life as a detainee in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, the stories are multiple and varied.

The centrepiece of the evening penned by Becx Harrison and directed by Matt Hassall sees actors Nadia Emam and Darren Kuppan explore the ideas of borders, imposed borders, everyday borders, the challenges faced by those unable to freely cross borders, the privilege of those who can and the sense of belonging borders may/may not bring. It is engaging, thought-provoking and beautifully delivered. Provocative and quick paced, both Emam and Kuppan command the full attention of every person in the room.

Hearing such honest and personal accounts in this stirring and deeply considered manner gives them great depth and real strength of meaning, pairing quotes from the privileged beside those of the desperate offers an opportunity to evaluate and question the injustices so many face. Migration happens every day, we are all migrants who cross borders daily yet for us the privileged borders are rarely a matter of life or death.

The theatre piece finishes by playing Maximo Park’s ‘Risk To Exist’ accompanied by a deeply moving film exploring the work of MOAS – Migration Offshore Aid Station.

After the performance further exhibits are introduced including interactive maps, a deeply moving installation ‘The Tent’ which explores birth in a refugee camp and stateless babies to an engaging short film by Casey Longdon and Grant Archer detailing ‘The Overview Effect’ exploring the perspective of astronauts as they look down to the world below and see a visual truth of the world without borders, further illustrating how we are all connected.

Be//longing is a highly emotive and passionately delivered piece. As overwhelming as a subject matter this is, Be//longing successfully ignites debate and delivers much needed opportunities to learn, to listen, to contemplate and then to hopefully act.