Home is obviously a subject that has been preying on my mind a lot lately. So I was interested to see Where We Began at Live Theatre the other night, a play made by ‘sanctuary theatre’ Stand and Be Counted. Since returning to Newcastle, I have already been to Live twice and it shows every sign of becoming one of my favourite venues – a welcoming ambience, and a really strong, interesting programme of shows.
This was my first time in the studio, a compact space for smaller shows, and I admit my night started in a slight grump as my plus one got stranded by Metro cancellations, then my mood not helped by the woman who rocked in two seconds before the start with a party of six and asked me to move seats to make room (hey, lady, if it’s that important your group sit together – maybe don’t wait till everyone else is seated before turning up?) (Yes, yes, I am aware it takes a special kind of privilege to come to a show about immigrants being displaced and being annoyed you have to move from one whole row to another. I’m sure she had a good reason, don’t be so judgemental, blah blah…)
Once started though, the show itself really moved me. A dystopian look at the logical consequences of the hostile environment – why not send ‘em all back? – it was part inspired by the real-life trials of one of the performers, young Londoner Tafadzwa Muchenje, whose life is currently on hold as he seeks the same permanent leave to remain that his family has been given (a family that only came here because we wanted his father’s skills. Not that this country would ever invite people here then screw them over, oh no.). At one stage, he was standing right next to me as he told his story, and it was almost uncomfortably intense (it’s frowned upon to leap from your seat and give the performers a big hug, but lord, I was tempted), and when Greek-born Zoe Katsilerou kept saying, ‘my soul is in Glasgow’ it was all I could do not to join in and yell, “mine too!”
For all my First World Grumbles (even as I type this, I am in the middle of a tantrum about my laptop being slow), I am a lucky person. While I have lived in plenty of places, it’s always been by choice – or, at least, desire. Moving for a man or a job or a dream, some of which worked out, some of which didn’t. I still think of several of those places as ‘home’. Glasgow, where I studied, have friends, and built a big chunk of who I am, has a hold on me that time doesn’t seem to lessen, and the hooks that London gets under your skin are never quite prised free. And though if some post-Brexit diktat decided we all had to stick within the borders of our hometown – because if you are going to adhere grimly to country lines, why not narrow it down still further? – I would be quite well-served by mine (I have family, friends, familiarity, a flat), it would still break my heart to know there are places I could never go back to, whole swathes of my past life off limits.
I never, really, expected to come back here. Not for long, not for real. I wanted to experience new places, I wanted the space and the freedom to explore who I was away from my mum’s well-meaning but censuring scrutiny, to know what it felt like to strut unfamiliar streets. I’m still unpicking what it means to return. But Where We Began reminded me how very, very fortunate I am, that the decision was up to me.
Where We Began is touring – you can follow the company on Twitter @SBC_Theatre for more details or check their website
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