Migration and immigration fuels one of the biggest debates in British society. It’s in our newspapers, on our television screens and has now made its way to the British stage.
A double bill, ‘For One Night Only’ by Oladipo Agboulaje, and ‘Letting Go’ by Rukhsana Ahmad, they both tell the stories of migrants who risk their lives by any means possible to get to the shores of England, seeking greener pastures. Their hopes and dreams all depend on one voyage. However, they soon find that their past still calls at them either by way of the sea through which they came or their family back home, who expects them to work financial wonders and miracles once they get to England.
In ‘Letting Go’, Ahmad tells the story of Abbas, who is continuously being tormented by memories of his brother who dies as they crossed the English Channel to get to Britain. Despite being able to escape the war that has ravaged his home country, the war within him won’t stop due his loss. Everyday, he sits at Dover and watches as the ships come in, anticipating that his brother might be on one of these ships. Only to realise in order to move on with his life, he must first let go of the hope that his brother is still alive or forever remain trapped.
Agboulaje tells a different story in ‘For One Night Only,’ Eddie and Bode have come to England to pursue a better life and that dream is to one day perform at Covent Garden.. They are economic migrants in search of the good life and will do whatever it takes to please their families who expect nothing less than success from them. However, the road to Covent Garden is not a straight forward one.
Within the cosy confines of the Oval theatre, Helena Bell brings this story to life. Using minimal stage props, she forces you to focus on the characters and their stories. Immigration is a subject that divides people with varying opinions but you are forced to feel empathy for these characters who reflect the stories of others you have heard of. Stories about survival, quest for freedom and above all, their struggle for a better life individuals from all corners of the world embark on, when they set out on a voyage when they leave the world they have always know for one where they are all alone with no help from anyone.
Agboulaje and Ahmad have created a powerful lense, a diasporic narrative, through which one can take a different point of view to the issues of immigration in Britain today.
While the subject is timely, topical and thought-provoking, Footprints in The Sand, could have done with more energy and allow a sense of depth about its theme to permeate long enough. So, you don’t feel disconnected once you leave the theatre, thinking it's just another story.
Image: Alessandro Evangelista