Pick a side

12 April 2017

After watching Say it Loud and No Human is Illegal, Andrew Rogers was left feeling angry, ashamed, and determined to do more

Say it Loud. I hated it. Or rather I hated how it made me feel. I felt guilty, angry, ashamed, inadequate. As with any piece dealing with such big issues that too often seem too complex, too contradictory and beyond our scope to manage or comprehend – by condemning Assad and his regime are we supporting or giving moral succour to IS? What are the alternatives if the Assad regime falls? Is the regime solely at fault, or is the mess that is Syria a catastrophe of all our (East, Middle-, West) making?

Everyone has an opinion and some of these are clearcut, some are more nuanced, but we can’t deny the scale of this problem and Feat. Theatre made it clear that they weren’t offering solutions or even any sort of clarity, but at least trying to make us think a bit more about what, if anything, we can do.

The offer at the beginning to write a note, however banal or simplistic, became a bit pointless by the end as there is simply too much to comprehend.

On a purely aesthetic level, it was simple and clear with some affecting moments – the narrative of the woman with her shopping on the bus and how we don’t respond to these situations, mainly through fear of reprisal or standing out, putting our heads above the parapet; the simple graphic representation of the numbers of refugees shown by paper birds and how we as a country and a government have responded to this situation that shames us all. The juxtaposition of the story about the boy and the starfish coming just after the description of Syrian children drowning is questionable at best, but the multi-authorship and dramatic choices are not what I’m looking at here.

Farage, May, Cameron, Johnson and all those cunts should see this and hang their heads. Theatre like this is affecting because it’s so direct and the performers acknowledge that they aren’t doing enough and we also look at ourselves and admit that we aren’t doing enough. But should that prevent us from doing something? If this week’s performances of Say it Loud lead to just 10 more people doing one thing to respond to the situation, other than putting a £guilt in the collection box, it’s done something. It’s not enough, but it’s something.

I couldn’t speak after this performance, but put my £guilt in the box and wrote a pitifully-inadequate "letter". I have to confess I wasn’t looking forward to another guilt trip with No Human is Illegal.

Thankfully, I had a 24-hour gap between the two, or I may well have stepped under a bus.

Hearing from others that this was another emotionally charged show made me enter Middleton Hall with some trepidation. No Human is Illegal was another flawed but completely honest response to the refugee crisis but this time I wasn’t reduced to a blubbering wreck.

It was also excellent, the honesty of the performers making their ignorance of the issue a central part of their response and how their work grew from this made it equally powerful but in a very different way. Highlights were the reveal of the flags – showing the performers’ backgrounds, from 13 different countries – and the vox pop voice syncing, which were extremely effective. The message at the end was simple, direct and powerful: if there were money to be made from migrants/refugees, we’d find the room for them.

From positions of ignorance and inadequacy we can make important and affecting theatre and there’s nothing wrong with admitting our shortcomings. It’s when we say we have all the answers that the problems start.

Send your reviews, thoughts and jokes to: noff@nsdf.org.uk


Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca