Review: Children's Children, The English Touring Theatre and Black Apron Entertainment
4.0Overall Score

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Children’s Children is a succinct and powerful commentary on the state of British racial tensions, told through a series of historical poems and speeches. The project was developed in response to the rise of British defensiveness following the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. With America under a spotlight following the death of George Floyd, restlessness within the UK was evident. Children’s Children challenges the subtleties of British racism which is evident in the stiff-upper-lip cries of, “We don’t do that here.” When systemic racism is so ingrained into a culture that it has grown normalised, change becomes necessary.

Kayla Meikle’s eye contact is piercing but her voice is soft and measured. She retells Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ speech. It’s a stunning recount of the labours of a black woman surrounded by white men who believe that women should be lifted into carriages, “What ain’t I a woman?” Meikle wipes down tables and asks us how we can deny women’s rights when Christ was born from God and a woman. Their performance is eloquent and they leave us in a striking silence.

In the Prince of Peckham pub, scattered balloons and party favours are strewn across the empty tables. Amber James, with their head down against the table, begins to sleepily speak Una Marson’s poetry. James unravels the poem, ‘Little Brown Girl’ and asks us, “How is it that you speak English as if it belonged to you?” Eroticisation of black people and their exclusion from historical narratives all tie into this modern retelling of the 1937 poem. One can only question how much London has changed since then.

Gershwyn Eustache Jnr’s subtle accent shift, as they take a business call, marks their shift into a distinctly British ideal that formality must appear white. Eustache Jnr’s retelling of, ‘Apparently’ by Stanley Crooke marks how in professional settings, racial integration is barely accomplished at a surface level while the deeper systemic issues thrive below. Sule Rimi speaks of how black children are instantaneously set up for failure when they are born into a system constructed to oppress them. Khai Shaw chants, “A change must come.” Racism did not begin with the protests of 2020; behaving as if unrest is new is a symptom of being preconditioned to a racist system. Shaw holds up a microphone in the empty pub private room and asks, “Can I talk to the black community?” I urge you to watch this piece for yourself and to hear these genuine cries for something to shift.

This whole project evokes a sense of timelessness which is ingrained in the history of a racist country. The English Touring Theatre and Black Apron Entertainment ask us to remember that racism has not been eradicated – it has only evolved. This work is a heartbeat of generational trauma where black child after black child has been conditioned to battle and swallow racist oppression. So much can be said in the space of sixteen minutes.

Children’s Children is available to watch on English Touring Theatre’s Youtube Channel.