Boat devised and created by Company Three, is inspired by news stories across Europe in the face of the migrant crisis. The ensemble use their own stories and understandings of their families leaving their home countries, intertwined with the realisation that we’re all connected and not that different.
With Afrobeats booming through the doors of the theatre, there is an air of eagerness from the company of actors that welcome the audience. Some appear nervous and timid, while others exude confidence in dancing confidently across the stage; a typically contrasting group of teenagers.
The set is laid bare with some backpacks, fans, and mics. The show began with a request for everyone to take out their iPhones, to find their compass, and note what latitude they are at. Naturally enough we are all pretty close, which makes the audience look around, engage with each other from the get go, and invest in the story as the ensemble pulled audience members out of their chairs to the stage. Incorporating the audience from the beginning was a clever mood for the energy of the room.
The ensemble is a varied and dynamic group that all brought something different to the production, whether it was a personal glimpse into their own lives, dancing, the school life for emigrants, and even discrimination and misunderstanding between friends on tetchy topics. The personal depth to Boat was incredibly touching and powerful. Every movement and jump felt exact with dedication and commitment while meandering through the meridian lines of the stage created with masking tape.
The beeping echo of a phone when travelling was a contemporary constant throughout which worked well with leading mass movement, intense physicality present, and connected movement directed by Yomi Lofvenberg. The ensemble consisted of Eleanor Benmore, Yaamin Chowdhury, Etienne Kachama, Romeo Mika, Jessica Noque, Kofi Odoom, and Reme Rodgers who collectively created an emotive and touching piece; there was an obvious strong bond felt throughout the ensemble which was emotional and powerful in the sharing of their stories.
The overall production values, managed by Ned Lay, were slick when it came to sound effects (side mic usage for news and narrative extracts and fan activation). An effective approach was the actors being part of the tech throughout the performance, whether it was creating the sound of a boat engine crossing the sea, or amplifying phone conversations with great competence; it brought another layer to the characters and their willingness to partake in all elements of the show.
Boat is a powerful, current, and varied in what the cast bring to the table. With exposed and honest humour throughout a show of a sensitive and difficult topic, Company Three bring a lightness in discussing the migrant crisis; and inviting the audience to realise that we are all very similar and share relatable values.
Boat is a work in progress and I’m incredibly excited to see where it can progress from here. Hopefully without losing its raw and honest edge.
Boat runs at the Battersea Arts Centre as part of Homegrown Festival until 22 April.