Still Here was a play of challenges to overcome, not least to find the venue but also to fully understand what Theatre For Justice were trying to do. If the idea of the tent was to make the audience as uncomfortable as the potential conditions in the Jungle of Calais, then granted, they succeeded in part. What was impressive was the design of the piece. Cleverly staged and with a good use of props throughout, I wish that the designer could have used their talents on another piece.
The idea of a show about a migrant’s journey is a good one and one that could have been phenomenal had the emphasis been on such an individual and not on a whitewashed version of someone’s experiences interacting with them. If the show itself could have been turned 180 degrees and been seen from a different perspective then it not only would have made more sense but perhaps also made the statement that I think they were trying to make.
Although the notion of the privileged position in which the writer was coming from was recognised and mentioned once, it was then followed with statements that were almost unbelievable. Stating that you weren’t there to gawp and stare and in the same breath taking a photograph makes the point irrelevant and confusing. The self-indulgence of the whole story was lifted at one point when we finally heard what we were waiting for, the young man’s story of his journey from Eritrea. This, I didn’t want to end and his moving account and obvious emotion in its description was excellent; I could’ve sat for an hour just listening to him.
It is a shame that Theatre For Justice had such an amazing amount of material and such an opportunity to shine a light on the situations of real people and their struggles but instead chose to demonstrate something that seemed to just assuage some guilt of privilege and not use its platform for good. If this was an incredibly intelligent way of us as an audience feeling frustrated with the perspective shown, causing us to look inwardly at our own privileged situation, sitting in a tent at an arts festival, then bravo to them, however sadly I don’t think that this piece was as multi-layered and complex as that.
Still Here is playing at ZOO, The Tent until August 21.